Deadline set for teachers to be vaccinated

All Department of Education Staff will be required to be fully vaccinated by November 8 to return to face-to-face schooling.

A NSW Department of Education spokesperson said they were encouraging all eligible staff, students over 16 and family members to seek an available vaccination and help protect both themselves and other members of their educational community from COVID-19.

“As the regulator of Education and Care Services in NSW, the Department’s top priority is the health, safety and wellbeing of children,” said a spokesperson for NSW Department of Education.

“We are also grateful to the parents, teachers, educators and principals who have strived to keep school and ECE communities safe throughout the pandemic and ensured children and young people received a high-quality education in both face-to-face and learning from home settings.”

A systematic review of all learning spaces, including libraries and halls, is also taking place to ensure all schools continue to operate in the safest way possible.

The review is focusing on ventilation in classrooms and also providing support to schools to adapt lessons making full use of outdoor learning areas.

“Most public schools have opening windows and schools with air conditioning systems are also being checked to ensure they are fully-operational and the frequency of filter servicing and cleaning will be increased,” said Education Minister, Sarah Mitchell.

Spokesperson for the Central Coast Council of P&Cs, Sharryn Brownlee, said it was crucial that all education staff were fully vaccinated to ensure Coast students could return safely to face-to-face learning.

“We sent a letter out to state and federal, education and health ministers and the local MPs at the start of the current lockdown asking for schools to be a priority for vaccinations,” Brownlee said.

“Education Minister, Sarah Mitchell, said that they were doing everything they could to ensure all staff had access to the vaccine, and Health Minister Brad Hazzard said that this is a health issue, and that he would advocate to secure more vaccines.

“We were very pleased to see a response to our letter as nothing is more important than getting our students back into the classroom.

“The strain and stresses of learning from home have been setting in, and schools across the Coast have been managing this really well by breaking up intensive learning by doing things like dress down Tuesdays,” Brownlee said.

For those who choose not to be vaccinated by November 8, Brownlee said that they would not be able to return to work.

“Someone with a health issue that cannot be vaccinated will be treated with provisions, but for those who won’t, it’s a condition of their employment and if they don’t fulfill their contract requirements, they will be removed.

“Parents are really supportive of this move, and the schools have been relaying this onto their staff.

“At this point, students will have the option to be vaccinated but it’s not mandatory although that could change in the future.

“Teachers who have been able to get Astra Zeneca have been very proactive in getting vaccinated.

“The average vaccination rate for teachers here on the Coast is around 80 per cent, the only concern is the younger teachers who can’t get Astra Zeneca and are waiting on Pfizer.

“Another concern is parents who might not want to send their children back to school, as there won’t be a hybrid of learning from home and a face-to-face available and no provisions to continue learning from home.

“Once students are back, if they are not attending, they will need to make other arrangements like homeschooling,” Brownlee said.

Currently in NSW, students are set to return to school on various dates, with Kindergarten and Year One returning on October 25.

Years Two, Six and 11 are returning on November 1, and Year Three, Four, Five, Seven, Nine and 10 will be returning on November 8.

Harry Mulholland

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