Ipswich and Lockyer Valley schools could face a teacher shortage heading into term one as positive COVID-19 cases continue to soar in the region.
Associate Dean Tania Leach from the University of Southern Queensland is calling for strategies to be implemented to activate relief teachers and bring retired teachers back into the fold.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk delayed the start of the school semester by two weeks from January 24 to February 7 to avoid the forecast peak of the latest Omicron surge.
Mrs Leach says that the current teacher shortage could be made much worse by staff taking time off with COVID-19 symptoms.
She says teacher shortages are already an issue in regional and remote areas of Queensland, which have now been compounded by vax mandates for teachers and the spread of the virus.
“We tend to have difficulty in sourcing supply teachers to backfill teachers who are sick. That was already an issue prior to borders opening and our Covid numbers increasing,” Mrs Leach says.
Vulnerable children and those of essential workers are able to return to school from January 24, however this will be for supervision purposes only.
Students in years 11 and 12 will start remote learning from January 31.
Mrs Leach says if there isn’t sufficient infrastructure or time to develop startegies for face-to-face and online teaching, children’s learning is at risk
“We can’t assume all students can access online learning,” she says.
“We have a proportion of students who are vulnerable that don’t have stability at home or even access to online.
“We do know that not only learning is impacted, but anxiety is impacted and their social connections.
“We need to really consider that, and be proactive in what we can do to minimise disruptions.”
Education Minister Grace Grace says students will not miss any essential content due to the delayed start of term, with teachers to review lesson plans to deliver the curriculum accordingly.
“Principals will implement staffing arrangements to ensure only the minimum number of staff are on site, but we will ensure vulnerable children and children of essential workers can still attend,” she says.
“An extensive range of resources and activities will be available to students via our comprehensive [email protected] site.
“However, school staff – like the wider workforce – are likely to be significantly impacted by the number of COVID cases, so directed remote learning won’t be offered at this stage.
“Parents and carers can decide what their children do over these two weeks.
“Staff who are able to work will be carrying out a range of duties, just as they would on other student-free days.”
The Queensland Teachers' Union met this week to discuss the matter and issued this statement on social media:
“The QTU has advised members we do not support the announced extension to the school year to December 16 for Prep to Year 10.
“Our Executive met this week to discuss our response to the decision. We welcome the delayed start but have written to the Minister and Premier to express our opposition to extending the school year.
“We continue to liaise with both the department and government in relation to this announcement and others that affect our members in schools.”
IMAGE: AAP/BIANCA DE MARCHI