Staff absences show Tasmanian schools are unable to cope

The state’s failed COVID plan has Tasmania’s schools at breaking point, data shows, with weekly teacher absences higher than 80 in some schools.

Tasmanian schools are struggling to cope with an average of 20.8 staff absences last week disrupting student learning and pushing teacher stress and workloads to the limit.

The data gathered by the Australian Education Union shows one school recorded 86 staff absences last week alone – a sign the Government’s plan has failed and support for schools is inadequate.

“This data shows the State Government has failed to make schools safe,” AEU Tasmania President David Genford said.

“The Government has sacrificed the health of teachers and staff, and the so-called plan for Term 2 is just more of the same.

“While the Liberal Government worries about their own jobs and careers, students and teachers are left with little support and the nonsense about 1700 available relief teachers.

“The Government still refuses to conduct a proper ventilation audit and now we have classrooms spreading COVID while windows and doors are closing for winter weather.”

The AEU understands staff absences across Tasmanian public schools totalled in the thousands last week, with thousands more students absent as well.

“The level of disruption is enormous,” Mr Genford said.

“It’s not just classes without their teacher, the severe relief shortage and combined classes – high student absences disrupt teachers’ learning programs so everything gets pushed back.

“We have stress levels and excessive workloads we’ve never seen before, but the Government’s Term 2 plan offers nothing new.

“Teachers are giving up their home lives to try and find relief because the Government’s promise of 1700 relief teachers was a lie.

“It’s time for the Government to stop focusing on themselves and look after students and teachers with immediate extra funding to assist relief coordination through this staffing crisis.”

Mr Genford said the Government also needs to step in and demand that non-essential work is cancelled so teachers can focus on teaching and getting through this crisis. 

“Right now we risk losing good teachers when we’ve got a severe teacher shortage – workload relief is needed immediately,” he said.

“The Morrison Government could also assist with urgent funding for capital works – making classrooms COVID safe with ventilation upgrades needs investment, but Scott Morrison has offered nothing to struggling public schools while handing billions of dollars out to private schools.”