Marshall doesn't give a RATs for education staff and students

AEU SA media release: Friday 14 January 2022

Premier Marshall’s announcement today demonstrates he has cloth ears when it comes to listening to the concerns of education professionals.

AEU members and leaders are clear that a two week delay is a sensible option to ensure all safety measures are put in place with time for educators to plan on line delivery while 5-11 year olds could be vaccinated before starting school.  Instead, confusion reigns around back to school arrangements and today’s announcement will leave educators in schools, preschools and TAFE feeling ignored and unsafe. 

While the wearing of masks, social distancing, sending home unwell students and staff all make good sense, official DfE publications released today give no indication about any plans for Rapid Antigen Testing, considered essential overseas and interstate. 

Measures like ‘open the windows’ when the ventilation audit at some sites will clearly show they’ve been nailed shut and ‘teach outside’ in the middle of summer ignores the context in which many educators work. Practical subjects, amongst others, simply cannot be conducted outside.

“Educators are committed to ensuring high quality learning in a safe learning environment but today’s announcement will leave many feeling vulnerable and unsafe,” said Andrew Gohl, President of the Australian Education Union SA Branch.

Supporting children in new learning environments is sensible, as is ensuring the safety of those at risk, not to mention those children of essential workers. However in reality education sites will be open for all students if that is the wish of parents. 

Mr Gohl said, “Essentially this is a ‘let it rip’ strategy that will see many education staff contract the virus, despite their double vaccinated status. This will have implications for staffing, the continuity of learning programmes and duty of care.” 

While close contact teachers may continue teaching while asymptomatic, they will be required to isolate at home. This may be repeated many times and it’s possible that a teacher may spend weeks isolated from their families as Omicron works its way from student to student in a class. 

“Fundamentally, this is about health and safety and it seems like the Government has just not thought this through. We call on the Marshall government to delay the return by two weeks, consult with educators and implement a safe and workable plan.”