While NSW’s Delta variant outbreak was declared a “national emergency”, Premier Gladys Berejiklian has gone through a series of push-forwards and takesies-backsies around returning Sydney’s year 12 students to face-to-face learning.
At one stage the government planned to have all year 12 students back to school on Monday, August 16, delivering rapid antigen testing to catch cases of COVID-19 and vaccinating tens of thousands of students, prioritising those from hot spots.
Today, those in hot spots can’t return yet and the logistics are blurry on who and how other students can return. Small groups are allowed on campus at a time, and only those requiring essential curriculum delivery and check-ins regarding challenges in the work can attend.
But Berejiklian’s move has caused major controversy around when and whether students should return to school. Here are the main arguments.
Students should go back to school:
In this camp, education is a high priority and gives students some normalcy and extra support before sitting the HSC.
In our Coronavirus & the Class of 2020 report, 70% of students said that they didn’t enjoy remote learning and 77% said that this lack of face-to-face learning worsened their school performance.
Many students found it difficult to concentrate at home and found that online group calls were awkward and ineffective, while some students said they didn’t have a decent work set-up at home.
The refocusing of vaccines towards year 12s have put some students at ease with an added level of safety, and some principals feel that a few weeks’ notice period is a sufficient time frame to prepare for their return.
Students shouldn’t go back to school:
But this extra infectious variant poses more of a threat to young people than previous strains. Many people worry that the gathering of tens of thousands of year 12s spells doom.
Some feel it’s an unrealistic expectation to fully vaccinate thousands of students and teachers in just a few weeks. Plus, rapid antigen testing isn’t highly reliable in detecting asymptomatic cases on its first go.
Some teachers feel a lack of confidence as there has been a lack of organisational guidance from the government. Already there have been booking issues and problematic last-minute changes like the cancellation of public transport which could have hurt disadvantaged students.
While education is important, some principals feel that health and safety come first and fear that they can’t create a safe environment.
There are still months left before the HSC finishes and with the vaccine situation changing by the week the fate of year 12s is up in the air.