Catholic students will do remote learning to begin term two whether they attend school or not.
(AAP: Mick Tsikas)
All of Western Australia’s Catholic schools and some independent and Anglican schools will adopt remote learning for the start of term two for all students from kindergarten to Year 10.
- Schools are preparing to return for term two on April 29
- Government schools will offer the option of remote or in-class learning
- But in-class lessons in Catholic schools will only be offered for years 11 and 12
The approach is at odds with government schools, which Premier Mark McGowan said would offer students the option of in-class or remote learning to cater for parent preference.
Catholic Education WA, which caters for almost 77,000 students across the state, said Year 11 and 12 students were strongly encouraged to attend school when classes resumed next Wednesday.
But it said younger students would continue with remote or online learning for at least the first four weeks of term, regardless of whether they attended class or not.
Parents have the option of keeping those children at home or sending them to school to be supervised.
“To be delivering [lessons] face-to-face and remote simultaneously, I believe is being quite disrespectful of teachers across all systems,” John XXIII College principal Rob Henderson told ABC Radio Perth.
Anglicans and independents follow suit
The Anglican Schools Commission and some independent schools have taken a similar approach to the Catholic system.
“We can’t see that things have changed substantially since we finished last term that would warrant bringing everyone back,” Scotch College principal Alec O’Connell said.
However, other independent schools were following a similar approach to the public system, or even encouraging full attendance for all students, particularly those at educational risk.
“We do have some schools that are encouraging every child to come because of the cohort they serve, and they’re going to do face-to face for everyone,” Association of Independent Schools of WA executive director Valerie Gould said.
Different schools, different approaches
The approach is different to public schools, where for the first three weeks of term students will be able to attend class for face-to-face lessons, or stay home to learn online or with hard-copy study packs.
WA Education Minister Sue Ellery said on Monday no individual public school teachers would be expected to teach all three modes of learning.
She said schools would be provided with extra resources if they needed them.
The Government has launched a recruitment drive for more relief teachers and education assistants to manage the extra workload.
But Mr Henderson questioned the Government’s ability to quickly recruit the number teachers required.
“I’m not quite sure where all these magic resources are going to come from … there’s always a limited pool of relief teachers that we tend to utilise across [the public, Catholic and independent] systems,” he said.
Premier questions Catholic decision
Mr McGowan said he was surprised by the Catholic Education approach and hoped the group would reconsider.
He said the medical advice the State Government had relied upon to open schools in term two had come from Australia’s chief health officers, but he was unsure what medical advice Catholic educators had relied on.
John XXIII College is one Catholic school keeping one system for all students to start term two. (Supplied: John XXIII College)
“We’ve made the decision about public schools on the best of health and the best of education advice,” he said.
“The health advice is there is a very low … risk for staff and students by reopening schools, and that is why every state and territory is reopening schools in one form or another.
“And the education advice is face-to-face teaching is the best way of teaching a child.”
Mr McGowan said medical monitoring continued to show schools had been responsible for very few infections.
“There has only been a handful of children diagnosed with COVID in Western Australia and there’s 500,000 kids out there at school,” he said.
“The risk of transmission from children to adults is extremely low and there’s been one staff member out of 68,000 education staff members who has been diagnosed.
“On top of that we are putting in place huge amounts of additional resources for cleaning and also arrangements within schools to allow them to manage the situation particularly for vulnerable staff.”
Questions remain on number of students who will attend
WA Education Minister Sue Ellery has admitted she did not now how many children would show up on day one.
Parents of students across all three systems have been asked this week to inform their school if they intend to keep their children at home or send them to class.
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Mr Henderson said a high turnout at the start of term two would present a challenge at his school in the Perth suburb of Mount Claremont, where there are 1,550 students and 200 staff.
“Occasionally it’s put forward that all you have to do is put kids in halls or gymnasiums or libraries or whatever, but if we have 70 per cent or more of our kids at school it will certainly be a challenge to maintain the social distancing requirements,” he said.
Catholic Education WA said its term two arrangements would be reviewed on May 18.
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