COVID-19 and independent schools
The IEU has written to members in independent schools about recent developments in relation to COVID-19 and the ongoing operation of independent schools.
Operation of schools
The union is aware that while some independent schools may have closed to students, most still have a small number of students in attendance.
The union has been in discussion with the NSW Minister for Education, Sarah Mitchell, and federal Education Minister, Dan Tehan about the inconsistency between limitations on social gatherings but continued expectations that schools operate with students present. We have also been in discussion with the Association of Independent Schools and the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations.
There are three key issues that independent schools must address immediately:
- Ensure that employees with concerns about their health or the health of a member of their household can work from home (vulnerable employees)
- Ensure that schools are operating safely (physical distancing, safety and hygiene measures, etc)
- Enable the provision of learning for vulnerable students and the children of essential workers but direct all other students to stay at home.
The NSW Department of Health has defined vulnerable employees as including people with compromised immune systems (eg cancer), people with diagnosed chronic medical conditions, elderly people and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, as they have higher rates of chronic illness. In addition, the Department of Health now quotes the Royal Australian College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists advice in relation to pregnant women that they are a vulnerable group.
Employers also need to be sympathetic to requests by a staff member to work from home in order to care for school-aged children.
Closure of schools
The union is calling for schools in NSW and schools in the ACT to close to students (other than as set out in 3 above) to allow an orderly transition to a hybrid delivery of education. Teachers and support staff need time and resources to prepare for the new model of delivery. The union anticipates that it is unlikely that schools will remain open for students until the end of Term 1.
Please do not hesitate to call the union if you have concerns about the work health and safety of your school, your request to work from home or your employment rights.
Please ensure you keep in touch with the latest developments via the union website at