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What members are saying on social media

We present what matters most to IEU members and what’s on their minds.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 Delta variant began in mid-June, leading to strict and lengthy lockdowns throughout Greater Sydney and regional NSW, members have inundated the IEU’s Facebook page with questions, comments, feedback, frustrations and support. Member feedback is an essential element of union democracy.

From our media releases calling time and time again for the NSW Government to prioritise all teachers and support staff in all education settings for vaccination to our open letter to the NSW Premier asking for a rethink of the rushed return of Year 12s to classrooms, you’ve had plenty to say – to the IEU and to each other.

When the union had a briefing with NSW Health, you shared your Work Health and Safety concerns with us to present to them. You were there when the IEU supported members on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald and you watched as IEUA NSW/ACT Branch Secretary Mark Northam stood up for you on the Channel 9 Evening News.

You appreciated a letter of support from the Maritime Union of Australia and a shout-out to teachers from well-known journalist and broadcaster Mike Carlton.

And you especially loved a letter from Peter Webster, Principal of St John XXIII Catholic Learning Community, to the NSW Premier asking for all school staff to be classified frontline workers for vaccination.

One key concern recurs frequently: vaccination priority. We hear you, we support you, and we’ve been campaigning relentlessly since January for all education staff to be included in priority groups for vaccination. That this has fallen on the NSW Government’s deaf ears frustrates your union as much as it disappoints you. Rest assured, will not give up until vaccination is available to every member who wants it.

Often you agreed with union posts and sometimes you didn’t – but we welcome all feedback as long as it’s respectful. We commend our comments section to you.

We've reproduced members’ comments from our Facebook page. We had enough to fill the entire issue, so we’ve had to be selective – it was difficult to choose. We’ve also deidentified contributors. We warmly invite you to join/like our Facebook page, be part of the conversation and have your voice heard. In each issue of Newsmonth, we’ll publish a selection of comments.

We post the IEU’s media releases on Facebook, but you can also read them in the news section of our website:

Compiled by Monica Crouch

For starters

Thank you for representing us IEU, and a special shout out to every teacher doing their very best. I include our principals and system leaders standing with us, prioritising the safety and wellbeing of our communities. Proud to be in this profession. We know what we do, we know the truth – and we vote, too.

Thanks for our solidarity with the NSW Teachers Federation. Thanks IEU for your advocacy.

It’s time for all unionists to stand together and support each other!

Thank you IEU for keeping the health and safety of school staff (and those they serve) on the radar during the ongoing pandemic.


We are classified as essential workers when they want us to be and teachers are still heading into schools but clearly not a high priority on the Pfizer list. It’s really disheartening.

We are expected to be in one room with 20 students for over an hour. The classroom environment would be much like a household which has been the number one transmission site of the Delta strain. On top of this, most year 12 students have casual jobs in supermarkets or fast food – so they are already in a higher risk group of being exposed to delta. Can/should/will I be expected to teach before my own vaccination? I booked the very day I was eligible (no complacency from me) yet I am still three weeks away from my appointment.

My Year 12s are getting vaccinated today but I cannot. Earliest AZ appointment available is September. Teachers are not the priority, the HSC exams are.

Why are students in certain areas being offered the vaccine when the potential to being exposed to the virus may be anywhere. What about teachers? What about vulnerable teachers and students not in the priority areas? And every time there is an exposure, teachers or students may be forced into quarantine and cannot attend school. Seriously, does this NSW government ever think of consequences of their decisions on the run?

If the year 12 students are getting vaccinated so they can continue f2f learning, then shouldn’t teachers of year 12 students get vaccinated as well? Seems to me that they should be in the vaccination program as well.

Upon ringing around [for vaccination] I was told teachers have no priority.

Younger teachers in primary schools being fast tracked for Pfizer since they are still onsite with some students yet they can’t get access to this vaccine.

Teachers should have been vaccinated ages ago, and must be vaccinated before students. Under this arrangement staff are being asked to work in an unsafe environment. Even with Pfizer students won’t be fully immunised until their second shot, which wouldn’t be until near the end of term …Teachers shouldn’t be expected to front a classroom without the opportunity of a vaccination.

Any thought about the fact that many students and teachers in these 8 LGAs attend Independent, Catholic Systemic and Selective schools outside of these LGAs and vice versa. Is it not necessary to vaccinate all Year 12 students in the Greater Sydney Metropolitan area, their teachers, in fact all school support staff?

Why do regional areas lose vaccines? It’s going to take a month or more for the vaccine to work! Why not average students marks on projects? Give them an extra five points for their ATAR. Why not protect teachers? We haven’t been marked as frontline workers?!

I booked to get my Pfizer doses and a few days before my first appointment, it was cancelled due to the redirection of vaccinations to Year 12 students. I phoned and complained. Still haven’t received my priority booking code to reschedule.

It’s so unbelievable that this LNP government requires union action to get teachers prioritised during this delta pandemic. The fact they haven’t moved on this across all LGAs when they’ve actually been targeting and blaming these LGAs … is mind boggling and makes me feel their agenda is entirely politically driven. It also feels like a slap in the face from a state government that do nothing but tell us all to get vaccinated, don’t properly mobilise equitable resources to do so, targets and bully western suburbs LGAs, uses the police force and drones out west instead of prioritising vaccine action to all school staff across all LGAs.

As a 39 yr old teacher in the Greater Sydney Area … I’m highly motivated to get Pfizer and told by at least eight local medical centres it’s at least 14 weeks because I’m not essential enough and they still have a backlog of healthcare workers to get through first.

Teachers definitely need to be prioritised for vaccinations. Not getting a first dose until October or November and returning to full classrooms beforehand could actually be putting our lives and our families lives at risk.

I know of many teachers who have been turned away from vaccination centres. Many teachers cannot book in until September. Thanking us in a press conference is just lip service.

Every teacher should have the opportunity to be vaccinated before returning to an environment that cannot meet social distancing guidelines due to the combination of class and room sizes. If people genuinely have the opportunity and turn it down, that’s on them as are the consequences of any illness they or their contacts may be exposed to. Thanks for the support IEU!

Early childhood teachers

Early childhood teachers are not in a lockdown, they are out there every day and deserve to have their shot immediately!

The Premier seems to have forgotten about the early childhood sector where teachers and educators have had no choice but to continue working face to face with children without the option to work from home.

Don’t worry, early childhood teachers work right through unvaccinated as children don't catch the disease. What a joke. No one cares about teachers’ health and safety – it's so upsetting!

Priority access for all educators including early childhood educators who can’t avoid close contact with a number of children and high numbers still attending. Today in the NSW press conference they mentioned again that childcare continues to be of concern yet teachers can’t get the vaccine. Where is our pop-up clinic with both vaccines available?

Us early childhood staff would really like to be a priority. We are still there – there’s no remote for us.

Year 12 exams

Just cancel them. It’s no longer an even playing field. How can kids living in Western Sydney prepare and sit exams when other students in the state are living relatively normal lives? Or if they don’t have to sit exams and only get based on school assessments, it’s not fair on those who have to sit exams. Schools would have enough information about their students and what they have already produced to rank them.

I find it disappointing that an exam take priority over people’s lives. If many other places can cancel an exam, why can’t we? I am over politicians trying to guilt teachers –teachers’ lives matter as do their families.

Running exams means 3 hours supervising students in a confined space – one sick kid will mean the entire school shuts down again due to most being close contacts, particularly with Delta.

Ask NESA to change HSC assessments for this year from an exam to something else. NESA can't do it? Why not? They've done it for individual students before under extreme circumstances. Isn't this an extreme circumstance?

Is the HSC more important that people's lives? What about students who will not get vaccinated? Do they still return to onsite learning?

Work health and safety

Husband and I both teach Year 12 at different schools. We also have 3 kids across 3 different schools (including a Year 12). This means that 5 schools intersect in our household (from Glebe to Marrickville through Bayside and out to the Fairfield LGA). If one of us gets it, we will be a one family super-spreader event.

The anguish this outbreak is causing school staff, especially in Greater Sydney, is intense. Staff are trying to balance the wellbeing of their students along with their own families. How can staff be protected with no time to complete the full cycle of vaccinations? Sitting ducks!

Nothing is more important than teachers’ safety right now. Teachers need much more than vaccines to keep them safe. Good ventilation is going to take some time to implement.

If we don’t have a year 12 class, do we need to be at school or can the workload be shared between colleagues? How do we care for our own dependent children who cannot attend school, without compromising their health and safety? (Sole parent)

How will we deal with parents demanding their child return to school when they refuse to have them vaccinated? Seeing lots of posts from parents saying they won’t let their child get vaccinated.

Rapid-antigen testing

Will a health professional administer the tests? I’m not handling bodily fluids.

Where are these rapid antigen tests? Are they already here and ready to distribute? Where are the trained medical experts coming from to conduct these tests? If the test is inaccurate and COVID is spread at our school and back to families, who is going to be responsible? What if someone refuses the antigen test or refuses to be vaccinated? How do students have sudden and immediate immunity after their first vaccination, when all health advice says otherwise. Who has all of their Yr12 teachers vaccinated and safe to be with the students? We have Yr11 Early Commencement HSC students, there is no mention of them.

I hope teachers aren't expected to carry out these tests! And, if not, where are the testers going to come from? Are they going to make sure all teachers are vaccinated? Have they thought this through at all?

Return to classrooms

There was no mention at the press conference about how teachers are going to be kept safe. There was much concern about students and how parents having to manage online learning is so difficult, but no mention of teachers’ health and wellbeing. The directive is still “if you can work from home, you must”. Teachers can work from home. We are doing it successfully. The reality is once Year 12s return, there will be many more students than that returning to school. All the teachers will be at school, their own children will need to return to school, parents will start to send students in other years because if it’s safe for Year 12 then it’s safe for everyone. It is diabolical!

My students are concerned about trying to catch public transport to and from school. Likewise, there are staff who will need to do this; currently timetables are running at off-peak – this would lead to crowding.

This comment by the Premier really riled me up: “‘I don't think anybody would begrudge us doing anything we can to get year 12 students safely back to schools." Yes we want students back but safely – not just for them but for teachers and the whole community!

How do Year 12 teachers on site stay safely distanced from each other using labs and classrooms that are necessarily shared with other Year 12 classes when we also require an area suitable for remote teaching of Years 7-10? The delay between arranging vaccination and maximum protection for the students makes a nonsense of the entire idea. It might have been an option had we been considered as essential workers from the 1a/1b phase of the rollout.

Looks like the pressure the IEU has been applying is paying off. Press conference this morning showed the Premier backtracking on the decision. Let’s hope a common sense and safe policy review is forthcoming.

Remote learning

As a support staff member I am not enjoying remote learning, there can be issues with connectivity, network not working and I am still working onsite. I am finding it difficult wearing masks. We also seem to get the most challenging children coming to school during lockdown. We are asked to keep all doors and windows wide open and it has been very cold not only for us but also for the children. We are supervising children by ourselves. I understand it is very hard for teachers as there is a lot of prep work but support staff get very little recognition for their efforts.

The addition to workload by needing to provide both face to face classes and additionally online resources for students who are isolating, lockdown or in quarantine. Students and parents contacting teachers outside of school hours and demanding work be made available and accessible for them due to being unable to attend.

I’m a high school teacher and teaching more lessons, sticking to the normal timetable. It is full on and really draining. Everyone is doing their best: school admin, teachers and staff, but it is taking a toll.

I’m working longer and harder than if I was at school. I have never been so exhausted. Two toddlers at home with two teachers is hard.