The IEU has appeared frequently in the mainstream media upholding our members’ safety on the pandemic’s frontlines. Online Journalist Angus Hoy covers the key issues.
The IEU is constantly monitoring the situation in non government schools across NSW and the ACT to ensure the safety of our members and your communities. We seek continual review of COVID-safe protocols to ensure the greatest levels of safety possible in schools. This is crucial in the wake of serious and expanding outbreaks in schools around Sydney and Newcastle from the start of Term 3.
It is crucial that non government school employers adhere to COVID-safe practices in schools, particularly by curtailing extracurricular activities.
In a statement on 11 August, IEU Secretary Mark Northam made the union’s position clear.
“The IEU would find it unacceptable if any of our members were asked to expose themselves needlessly to additional risk by participating in extracurricular activities such as sporting trips, school excursions, retreats, or other such activities,” Northam said.
In the same statement, the union called on the NSW Government to provide “clear and decisive guidance to schools”. The IEU has repeatedly expressed concern that our members, and the young people in their charge, are being told there is something exceptional about passing through the school gates that means COVID-safe precautions being undertaken in the wider community need no longer apply.
The union is aware of heightened anxiety among our members due to confused and contradictory messages.
Our members in NSW and the ACT are on the frontline of the pandemic response. Many report a feeling of decision fatigue. School staff have repeatedly needed to make judgement calls on health measures, in addition to regular professional decisions around the education of students and school functioning – all without clear guidelines from the government.
Workplace transmission requires a workplace response. Consistent, clear guidelines will help our members ensure schools are safe for students, teachers, support staff, school leadership, and wider school communities.
The NSW Government has responded to the union’s calls. Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant and Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced on 17 August they had developed “new, strengthened guidance” on areas that represent increased risks of transmission in schools. They described it as a “reset for Term 3” that came into effect on 19 August.
Dr Chant has written to non government school employers asking them to comply with these measures, which are binding on their public school counterparts. The IEU expects non government school employers to adhere fully to these guidelines and fulfill their obligations to provide a safe working environment for our members.