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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

ACT public school students could return to classrooms early

There is scope for some ACT public school students to return earlier than planned if a range of public health restrictions are loosened in the coming months.

As it sits now, most ACT public school students will undertake their learning remotely online at home for Term 2.

ACT Education Minister Yvette Berry said the Territory’s public school system could manage a change in circumstances that would lead to more students in classrooms.

“If we do need to go back sooner rather than the end of Term 3, which is what we’ve been planning for, then we will be able to do that,” Ms Berry said.

“Four weeks ago, when we talked about schools delivering education in a different way … we all said that it was very easy to pull children out of schools.

“Getting children back to school is going to be a little more difficult, so we’re going to need some time to make sure that is as seamless as possible … We’ll take all the time that we need,” she said.

ACT Chief Minster Andrew Barr said the Territory’s decision to pursue a remote online education model for Term 2 is “entirely consistent” with current national schooling principles.

“We will continue the rollout of our education program for Term 2 exactly as we have announced. That, of course, has the capacity to scale up should there be an increase in students wishing to attend ACT public schools,” Mr Barr said.

He said the current social distancing and public gathering measures will remain in place for at least the next four weeks, with a review of those measures to be undertaken in the next two to three weeks.

“Were we in a position in four weeks’ time to be loosening a range of restrictions, then that may well have a consequential flow on into the educational sector.

“We also continue our medium-term work on what Term 3 and the rest of the school year will look like, with the ability to respond to a changed public health environment,” he said.

Australian Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy said yesterday the most important health consideration around education is protecting teachers.

“We are recommending that teachers practise good distancing, particularly with other adults but also some distancing in the classroom.

“We know that children don’t seem to be transmitting this virus to any great extent in schools, but clearly some children have picked up this virus, a small number, mostly in the family.

“We have recommended that older teachers and teachers with chronic disease not be working in the classroom,” he said.

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