Weekly Wrap: May 21, 2020

21 May 2020

The information in the Weekly Wrap is aggregated from other news sources to provide you with news that is relevant to the education sector across Australia and worldwide. Each paragraph is a summary of the subject matter covered in the particular news article. The information does not necessarily reflect the views of CompliSpace.



750 private schools take up government's $3bn offer

The Educator reports that Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan said more than 750 private schools have requested to have their total annual recurrent funding brought forward to help their students return to the classroom. In April, the Federal Government put a $3bn offer on the table for Australia’s private schools to resume face-to-face teaching within four weeks. Schools are being offered the option to apply for their July 2020 recurrent funding payment to be brought forward to May and June 2020. Approved authorities will be able to access up to 25 per cent of their total annual recurrent funding, which will be paid in two separate schedules on late May and early June. To be eligible for the first payment of 12.5 per cent, private school boards must be open for physical campus learning in Term 2 and to have a plan to fully re-open classroom teaching by 1 June. To be eligible for the second payment of 12.5 per cent, boards must commit to 50 per cent of their students attending classroom-based learning by 1 June.


Ire over $10m private school hygiene funding

The Educator reports that the Morrison Government has been accused of providing a “special deal” to private schools after announcing hygiene funding. Last Thursday, the Federal Government announced an additional $10m for private schools to improve their COVID-19 hygiene measures, such as providing soap, hand sanitiser or extra cleaning. The National Catholic Education Commission welcomed the announcement, with executive director Jacinta Collins saying school communities have been spending “significantly more” of their operational budgets on stronger hygiene and cleaning protocols. However, Australian Education Union federal president Correna Haythorpe said the announcement “ignores” the urgent need to improve hygiene measures in public schools across Australia. In a statement provided to The Educator, Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan said government schools are run by state and territory governments and it is their responsibility to properly fund the cleaning of their schools and to ensure that proper safety protocols are in place.


Child abuse predator “handbook” lists ways to target children during coronavirus lockdown

The Guardian reports that child abusers have created and shared an online grooming manual describing ways to manipulate and exploit the increased number of children at home and online during COVID-19, Australia’s e-safety commissioner has said. COVID-19 restrictions have coincided with a significant increase in reports to the eSafety Office about child sexual abuse material, Julie Inman Grant told Guardian Australia. Investigators had seen a marked increase in a phenomenum known as “capping”, she said, where abusers took screenshots during explicit video calls and live streams with minors, and then circulated them widely or used them to coerce children. There was an average of 670 reports per month to the commission in 2019. Data provided by the commissioner to Guardian Australia shows child sexual abuse material reports increased 27 per cent in March and 37 per cent in April 2020. While reports of abuse had been steadily increasing before COVID-19 restrictions, Inman Grant said there was no doubt the pandemic had contributed in part, while raising the risk of children being abused online.


NSW: Extended Due Date for Non-Government School Annual Reports

The NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) has announced that the due date for non-government schools to publish and submit to NESA, their 2019 annual report has been extended to 9 October 2020. Annual reports can be submitted to RANGS Online on or before the due date.  Annual reporting requirements are detailed in section 3.10.1 of the Registered and Accredited Individual Non-government Schools (NSW) Manual and section 5.10.1 of the Registration Systems and Member Non-government Schools (NSW) Manual.


NSW: Extension of Time for Responsible Persons Undertaking Professional Learning On Governance

The NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) has announced that, in response to COVID-19, NESA has extended the timeframe for “responsible persons” who, in 2020, are in the final year of their three year period for professional learning in relation to governance. The professional learning may now be completed by the end of 2021. The governance professional learning requirement is detailed in the Registered and Accredited Individual Non-government Schools (NSW) Manual for individual non-government schools and the Registration Systems and Member Non-government Schools (NSW) Manual for systemic non-government schools.


Coronavirus: Victorian Year 12 students to be spared torture of VCE test delay

The Australian reports that Victoria’s Year 12 students can expect to sit final exams weeks earlier than anticipated after the state government announced that they would return to the classroom by the end of the month. The much-anticipated term-two comeback, combined with a strategic reduction in VCE workload, means it is likely that end-of-year assessments could conclude by the end of November, or early December at the latest, rather than bleed into January as feared at the height of the pandemic. The announcement, which was welcomed by the Federal Government, which had been pressuring Victoria to catch up to other states, has removed significant uncertainty for VCE students. The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) recently released revised course work for Unit 4 of every subject that was designed to reduce student workload and stress in the wake of significant disruption. The VCAA is expected to announce a revised VCE exam timetable within days.


Australia's young people are not coping with the coronavirus pandemic, survey finds

SBS News reports that many young Australians are struggling to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and feel overlooked in the public debate about it, according to a UNICEF survey released on Sunday. The survey found the proportion of Australians aged 13 to 17 years who feel their ability to cope well with life has almost halved from 81 to 45 per cent since before the national pandemic response was implemented in late March. It also found that 40 per cent of this group viewed many of the pandemic-related discussions about children and young people, such as school closures, as being more about the impact on parents, carers and the economy. The survey found that 67 per cent of the young people were worried about their education being disrupted or held back. The national survey of 1,007 teenagers was conducted through YouGov Galaxy in the first half of April and UNICEF Australia young ambassadors followed up with consultations of young people in regional NSW, Tasmania, Perth and Sydney.


What lessons has education learned from the coronavirus crisis?

According to The Age, Australian teachers and academics are grappling with what lasting changes the coronavirus disruption will have on the education system. The technological challenges and advances brought on by the pandemic should give people new perspective on classroom tech, says Monash University digital education researcher Dr Carlo Perrotta. "The need for physical contact and close meaningful relationships that schools provide; it's an important aspect we mustn't lose," he said. Dr Perrotta said the move to remote learning had shown nothing could replace the effect of face-to-face teaching. He said in future the focus should be on better tech resources, rather than simply more. The most effective choices would be those that best mimic physical interaction, such as video conferencing. Deakin University Professor Phil Riley, co-author of an annual survey of principals' wellbeing, hoped improved respect for school staff would be a lasting societal change.


How does COVID-19 affect children (and what is Kawasaki disease)?

According to an Explainer in The Sydney Morning Herald, news has been spreading of a new inflammatory illness in children linked to COVID-19. So far, the illness – dubbed PIMS-TS and described as similar to the rare Kawasaki disease – has been identified in more than 100 children in New York State, and linked to three deaths there. It has been recorded in 14 other US states and there have been more than 50 cases in the UK and in European countries including France, Switzerland and Spain. Of the 300 children in Australia who have tested positive for COVID-19, none has died and none has required intensive care. Experts believe the new PIMS-TS is likely to be just as rare as Kawasaki disease. While they believe the risk is low, the country’s paediatric hospitals have set up a surveillance system to look out for any cases of PIMS-TS or Kawasaki that show up in their wards or intensive care. So far, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly says there have been no spikes in Kawasaki cases and no identified instances of PIMS-TS.


How will schools cope with COVID-19 outbreaks?

According to The Educator, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has conceded that there will “undoubtedly” be additional COVID-19 cases as schools reopen for face-to-face teaching but is standing firm in his belief that schools are safe. Of particular concern as schools reopen is that many teachers lack the same kind of Personal Protective Equipment provided to other frontline workers such as nurses and doctors. In April, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth was asked by reporters whether teachers who are required to work should be provided with PPE to protect themselves from coronavirus. However, Dr Coatsworth said it was not something that was being considered. “What we would say is that whether you're a teacher or a parent with a child who's sick with any sort of respiratory symptoms, you have to stay away from school,” he said.


Schools to test students' progress and focus on the basics when classes resume

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that NSW’s public schools boss says teachers will begin testing students to identify where they have fallen behind in their learning when they return full-time, and will cut parts of the kindy to year 10 syllabuses to ensure they can focus on literacy and numeracy. The NSW government would announce details of the next phase of the return-to-school plan this week, and was hoping to have all students back full-time by the end of this month, Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said last Friday. At that point, remote learning will stop and "students will be attending as per normal practice", Ms Mitchell told a parliamentary inquiry into the government's COVID-19 response. "Attendance will be marked." Amid concern some students might have gone backwards during their time doing lessons at home, NSW Education Department secretary Mark Scott said teachers would use different kinds of diagnosis and assessment tools available. The NSW Education Standards Authority has told schools they will not have to cover all the outcomes in the kindergarten to Year 10 syllabuses this year and can choose which parts they will teach in a bid to focus on essential knowledge amid the COVID-19 disruption.


Western Australian parents could be fined for school no shows as mandatory attendance returns

According to 7news, Western Australia has not ruled out fining parents who refuse to send their children to school without a valid reason. Premier Mark McGowan announced last Thursday that the state will reinstate compulsory attendance at public, Catholic and independent schools from this week. Parents had the option of keeping kids home from school for the first few weeks of term two but they would be required to attend from Monday. The Premier warned those who fail to comply without a valid reason could be fined which will be policed under state of emergency powers. Students with medical vulnerabilities or those who have family members with chronic health issues will be granted exemptions and can continue to learn from home. Education Minister Sue Ellery told reporters that “nervousness” about the return to school would not qualify as an exemption. “The fines are $1,000 but there is an extensive process ... that tries to engage families to try and address the absenteeism,” she said.



Polish archbishop refers child abuse negligence case to Vatican (Poland)

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Polish Catholic Church's most senior archbishop notified the Vatican on Saturday of a Polish bishop accused of shielding priests known to have sexually abused children. The referral, unprecedented in the deeply religious country, will test procedures introduced by the Vatican last year to hold to account bishops accused of turning a blind eye to child sex abuse. The Vatican is now expected to assign an investigator to the case. "I ask priests, nuns, parents and educators to not be led by the false logic of shielding the Church, effectively hiding sexual abusers," Poland's Primate Wojciech Polak said in a statement published on Saturday. "There is no place among the clergy to sexually abuse minors. We do not allow for the hiding of these crimes." Poland's Catholic Church, an institution with close ties to the ruling nationalist Law and Justice party, has faced accusations in the past of shielding priests who abuse children.


Reopening Schools in the Context of COVID-19: Health and Safety Guidelines from Other Countries (United States)

According to the Learning Policy Institute, schools across the United States cancelled in-person classes beginning in March 2020 to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to reopen schools safely and mitigate disease spread, state and district leaders will need to address several important health considerations. The brief compiles preliminary information on health and safety guidelines from five countries that have continued or reopened schools during the COVID-19 outbreak: China, Denmark, Norway, Singapore, and Taiwan. It focuses on guidelines in three areas: attendance, social distancing, and hygiene and cleaning. Information was gathered from health and safety guidance documents from each country’s Ministry of Education (as of 3 May) as well as media and journal articles. Each of these countries has been successful, to date, in avoiding spread of COVID-19 in schools. Countries that have reopened differ significantly from the experiences so far in the United States, however, in terms of the extent of their testing and tracking of cases.


Distance Learning Denied (Global)

According to the World Education Blog, most countries around the world have mandated school closures as part of public health measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since February 2020, school closures in 190 countries have caused widespread disruption of the education of 1.27 billion children and youth or some 95 per cent of primary and secondary students worldwide. This situation is dramatically exacerbating inequalities in access to educational opportunity in multiple ways. Data show that despite government efforts worldwide to provide alternative remote learning, at least 500 million children and youth are currently excluded from public educational provision. While governments in four out of five countries with school closures have proposed national distance learning alternatives in efforts to ensure continuity of curriculum-based study and learning, other countries have not.

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