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NSW govt wants schools open amid pandemic

The NSW premier isn’t backing away from her staggered approach to returning students to face-to-face learning, noting schools should stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As schools across the state resume online learning this week for term two, teachers and staff will also plan for a return to face-to-face teaching one day a week from May 11.

Gladys Berejiklian on Monday acknowledged it was a big move for the largest state in Australia to have students resume face-to-face learning.

She noted other countries across the world that rushed the decision had to close schools and reopen them, something she doesn’t want to do.

“Once our kids go back to school, that’s it. I want schools to stay open during the duration of the pandemic,” Ms Berejiklian said in Sydney.

Ms Berejiklian says NSW schools have been preparing for a staggered return of students by ensuring teachers can socially distance in staff rooms, children pick-up and drop-offs can be staggered, and that an abundance of hand sanitiser is available.

The premier said it was her aim to have all children back in schools by the end of term two.

“If we find that after just a few weeks the resumption of school is going well, there’s no reason at all for us to not bring forward a greater proportion of kids going back every day,” she said.

NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos backed the staggered return to school but noted year 12 students should be prioritised and allowed to go back first.

“Year 12 is a year of significant stress for our students doing the HSC…. Those students deserve a lot of attention and need to be privileged in this instance,” he told ABC television on Monday.

NSW education department secretary Mark Scott rejected the notion of year 12 students going first in NSW, stating all students need face-to-face learning.

“We have a commitment to every child and to say these students can go back but these students can have weeks out of this classroom… I don’t think that’s a fair thing across the system,” Mr Scott said on ABC’s Q and A program on Monday night.

University of Sydney deputy vice chancellor Lisa Jackson Pulver said institutions should be flexible, in reply to a question about discrepancies between year 12 students from public schools and those in independent schools where face-to face learning will be more prevalent.

“Of course, it’s going to have an effect, it’s going to be tricky… but we’re adaptable, we’re flexible and we’re able to do it,” she said.

Originally published as NSW govt wants schools open amid pandemic

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