School survey confirms Government COVID planning failures

Just one in five educators feel safe returning to school this week and the same amount are comfortable with the State Government’s COVID preparedness, new Australian Education Union research shows.

AEU Tasmania President David Genford said the State Government had let down students and educators by failing to address teacher shortages pre-COVID and neglecting important safety measures in Tasmanian schools ahead of Term 1.

“The reality is, not enough has been done in our schools to protect students and teachers against the threat of COVID-19,” Mr Genford said. “Teacher and staff shortages that hurt student learning last year are going to be worse this year and there’s no action or additional funding from this Government.”

“The Government has had weeks to improve its COVID Return to School plan, but instead we’ll see students return to classes on Wednesday with unacceptable, bare-minimum safety measures in place.”

It comes as AEU Tasmania last month released an eight-point school safety plan demanding a range of measures be implemented, including high protection masks for staff, free and available RATs and a full and transparent ventilation audit of all schools and colleges.

Mr Genford said results of a recent AEU member survey confirmed the Government’s COVID planning failures.

A snapshot of the survey results shows:

  • Only 1 in 5 members feel safe returning to work.
  • Just 20% of members are satisfied with Government’s COVID plan.
  • 70% of members believe high-protection P2/N95 masks should be made available to staff.
  • Almost half (45%) of members don’t have access to an outdoor learning space.
  • Where outdoor eating and learning spaces do exist, many lack shade, shelter, seating and tables (35% of members have no outdoor eating areas or lack shelter/shade).

“When just 20 per cent of educators feel their workplace is safe, it’s clear much more needs to be done,” he said.

“That figure underlines the oft talked about idea that schools are being treated as childminding services, with the safety of staff sacrificed for the economy.”

Mr Genford said it was unacceptable the State Government had not increased teachers and support staff numbers in schools and colleges, despite shortages in previous years affecting student learning.

“The Government needs to act now to increase safety measures in our schools and colleges for the workforce that we do have, while also committing to increasing teaching and support staff, with money pledged in the next budget.

“Student learning is, of course, the top priority, which is why these Government safety failures must be immediately addressed and further disruption to learning avoided.”