Supporting the independent education community

Media Release: Return to schools - ACT consults while NSW creates confusion

Friday, 3 September 2021

Return to schools: ACT consults while NSW creates confusion

The Independent Education Union NSW/ACT Branch, which represents 32,000 teachers and support staff, welcomes the ACT Government’s prompt move to prioritise school staff for vaccination. The IEU wrote to ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr on 18 August, requesting priority vaccination for school staff.

“The ACT Government knows that vaccinating our educators, teachers and frontline staff in schools, early childhood centres and out-of-school hours care services is an essential step towards ensuring the safe return to normality for Canberrans,” Mr Barr said today.

Starting from 6 September, all year 12 students in the ACT at public, private, Catholic and independent schools are eligible for vaccination, Mr Barr said. From the same date, all teachers, educators and school staff who have direct contact with students will also have access to priority vaccination through ACT government clinics.

“We applaud the ACT Government for listening, consulting and acting,” IEU NSW/ACT Branch Acting Secretary Carol Matthews said. “But in stark contrast, the NSW Government’s consultation with school staff through their unions has been scant at best.”

The NSW plan to return to schools was announced in the media without any consultation with the staff who work on the frontline. Priority vaccination for teachers was finally set for September 6 although school staff had been calling for it via their unions since January.

This prioritisation only came after the NSW Government mandated that school staff be fully vaccinated by November 8. Yet a full week after this was announced on Friday 27 August, the terms of the Public Health Order are still not available.

At a meeting this morning, the IEU NSW/ACT Executive, comprising teachers and support staff from across NSW, passed a resolution stating: “We call for the NSW Government as a matter of urgency to consult with teacher unions, including the IEU, concerning the proposed Public Health Order requiring all staff in schools and early childhood education and care services to be fully vaccinated by 8 November, given the difficulties many staff are having in accessing the recommended vaccine, particularly in regional areas.

“The Executive also calls on NSW Health to develop guidelines concerning ventilation, air filtration and other health measures to make the reopening of schools as safe as possible for staff and students. We consider state and federal governments should make rapid-antigen testing free and more accessible as another means to minimise health risks staff and students face when schools reopen.”

Contacts

Carol Matthews, Acting Secretary, IEUA NSW/ACT, 0418 272 902

Monica Crouch, Media and Communications, 0411 645 751, monica@ieu.asn.au

The IEUA NSW/ACT Branch represents over 32,000 teachers, principals and support staff in Catholic and independent schools, early childhood centres and post-secondary colleges.

Authorised by Carol Matthews, Acting Secretary, IEUA NSW/ACT Branch