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SA teachers told to prepare for second wave of online learning

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UPDATED: Public school teachers have been ordered to start planning in advance for a possible return to home schooling amid fears the resurgence of COVID-19 in Melbourne could make its way to South Australia. 

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The directive comes as students at metropolitan Melbourne schools return to online learning from today. In an attempt to combat the spread of the virus, only Year 11, 12 and some Year 10 students, as well as those enrolled in specialist schools, are allowed on-site. 

South Australia’s Education Department is now taking precautionary action in case a coronavirus resurgence makes its way across the border.  

The Department’s system improvement director Ben Temperly said a reminder was issued to teachers last week to have a two-week block of learning prepared as “contingency against a site closure”.

“South Australians have done a brilliant job at containing the virus so far but as we have seen in Victoria the situation can change very quickly,” he said.

“We need to be vigilant and prepared.”

Australian Education Union state branch president Lara Golding told InDaily SA teachers had been ordered to prepare learning activities in advance and must now take their laptops home each night.

She said teachers had also been instructed to ask students if they had access to a computer and learning resources at home.

The union claims the directive has burdened teachers with an “excessive” workload, which could affect the health and safety of staff and their students.

“We are calling on the Minister to ensure that consultation with the AEU and local health and safety representatives occurs as a key part of planning for a possible resurgence,” Golding said.

“Clear guidelines, support and resources need to be provided to schools, preschools and TAFE to manage the health and safety risks for staff and students.”

The State Government in March decided to bring forward the start of the Easter school holidays to help teachers plan for a combination of online and on-site learning for the start of Term 2.

The decision prompted confusion among parents and a backlash from the union, which claimed the Government was compromising the health and safety of teachers by forcing them to work in classrooms where social distancing was not possible.

At the time, the Government insisted the decision was based on public health advice.

Golding said if a second wave of coronavirus hit South Australia, the Government needed to provide more consistent messaging to ensure teachers and parents are kept informed about any potential changes to schooling.

“Previously, the Minister placed significant responsibilities on principals and preschool directors to implement general advice with minimal additional resources,” she said.

“While this was successful in some locations, it resulted in an ad-hoc management strategy, equity concerns and a range of levels of engagement.”

Temperly said the Department would “continue to work closely with SA Health and keep its plans up to date so that students and teachers are supported effectively whatever may develop in coming months.”

Meanwhile, Education Minister John Gardner today heralded the start of Term 3 by claiming there was “no better place to be in the world right now than South Australia”, due to the work of health officials to slow the spread of COVID-19.

We have led the nation in school attendance since last term, and we believe this has placed our students in an excellent position to succeed in their studies this year,” he said. 

“The return of school formals, socials, camps and excursions will certainly be welcomed by students, who earlier in the year may have feared these activities may not occur in 2020.” 

Exams are also scheduled to occur as planned, with the SACE board this morning confirming that written exams, which are worth up to 30 per cent of a Year 12 student’s final grade, would take place under normal arrangements in October and November.

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