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Byron Shire
May 11, 2021

School support staff call on NSW government to close schools now

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One of the most controversial issues in the response to the COVID-19 crisis, is what to do about schools.

While many believe there should be a total shut down and isolation measures implemented in all areas, others are distressed about what might happen to the workforce, in particular the health sector workforce, if schools close.

It’s a fine balancing act and many of the people staffing schools want to see them closed.

The Public Service Association, which represents NSW’s 17,500 non-teaching school support staff, including school learning support officers, admin staff, aboriginal education officers, and other non-teaching staff in schools, said following a meeting on Monday, members are now calling on the government to close schools for all children but those of essential service workers.

‘School support staff believe the right course of action to limit the spread of COVID-19 is for the Berejiklian Government to close schools,’ said PSA general secretary Stewart Little.

‘The message from the government needs to be simple: unless you work in an essential service, school is closed for your children.

Not for parents to decide

‘This isn’t a decision that should be left to parents – it is only causing further anxiety, confusion and uncertainty.

‘This is the right thing to do. We can’t afford any more delays or confusion about whether parents should still be sending kids to school.

‘The NSW government can readily make arrangements to ensure the children of essential service workers can remain supervised by staff at school during school hours – and if needed after school care too.

‘We are all in this together – the government must also insist employers across the state provide flexible arrangements to accommodate that many workers will have children staying home.

‘This is the model the UK has adopted. We have the advantage of seeing how other countries are managing these challenges – we should learn from them and implement measures quickly.

‘Our school support members work with some of the vulnerable kids in the state, including kids with disabilities and complex needs

‘They work in very close proximity, they can not practise social distancing. The NSW government says they’re keeping schools on health advice – but won’t be transparent about what that advice is. This is only adding to the confusion among parents, teachers and school support staff.

‘They love their jobs and are committed to supporting students and parents, but they need more support from the government to minimise the risk to them and their families. Closing schools would provide greater resources to do this.’

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