For the rest of our lives we will remember what we are going through at present. As you can appreciate, there is no historical precedent for the management of a pandemic in schools and preschools and this is currently being reflected in the policy responses and advice being announced daily. These times are unprecedented as we are at war with an invisible enemy. As we ramp up our response to defend and protect ourselves and the members of our communities, we are being guided by DET, who in turn is being guided by the State Chief Health Officer, Dr Brett Sutton. Dr Sutton’s view may or may not be impacted by the views of the Federal Chief Health Officer, Prof Brendan Murphy.
There is no doubt there are mixed and confusing messages about schools in the media. It would appear that the Victorian Government, under the leadership of Premier Daniel Andrews, is at odds with the Federal Government lead by Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, on the matter of school closure. I appreciate our State leadership and wish that we’d had Federal leadership that was as strong from the outset, and my sense is that we would not be so deeply mired in this mess as we are at present, had that been the case.
I recognise how stressful this is for Principals and their staff. I don’t know the solution regarding the care of at risk students – they could be carriers due to their lifestyles away from school. The coverage of Emergency Services children is similarly fraught.
The APF has had an avalanche of communication from members, by telephone, text and email since last week, which amplified over the weekend. We have responded to each communication in as timely a fashion as is possible offering advice or opinion as appropriate.
Firstly, it is of note that :
- Our members are employees of the department and have an obligation to follow DET directives.
- DET is obligated to follow the directions of the Andrews government
- The APF continues to have regular contact with the Department via Dr David Howes, Deputy Secretary, Schools and Regional Services, Chris Thompson, Assistant Deputy Secretary and others on your behalf
Currently our concerns in support of Principal Class Employees include:
- Government/DET messaging needs to be consistent and written by those who are familiar with the dynamics and operation of schools
- We need a single point of truth.
- DET sent the 23rd March Coronavirus Update directly to all staff in schools. The way this was written may have enabled countless interpretations. There’s reference to principals and leadership teams at the top but no specific reference to teachers or ES staff. DET need to be very explicit in their expectations of Principals.
- Our view is that all schools and pre schools should be closed for students as of Tuesday 24th March.
- The issue of parental/carer capacity should not be a school responsibility.
- The current social distancing message is impractical, particularly for a primary school with very young students.
- It is difficult for school leaders to feel their employer is attempting to look after their health and wellbeing if they insist they attend a public place like a school, with significant numbers of potential carriers.