'Make all schools pupil-free by end of week' – principals

The peak body for Australia’s public primary school principals says keeping young children at school is doing more harm than good, and has called for all schools to go pupil-free by the end of the week.

In a statement yesterday, the Australian Government Primary Principals Association (AGPPA) called for a national approach to support all students and staff, saying the government’s new social distancing measures “do not work in primary schools”.

AGPPA president Ian Anderson said states and territories which have acted quickly to initiate “student free days” to allow staff time to plan for an alternative delivery method should be congratulated.

“Whilst AGPPA acknowledges that the Australian Government is basing its approach on ‘expert medical advice’, the impact on student learning with large numbers of absences and the health concerns of the adults working in schools is now a huge concern to us,” Anderson said.

“Schools are hubs of the community and the social distancing rules are not appropriate and do not work in primary schools. Each day parents and grandparents drop off, pick up and congregate with their students at schools making social distancing impossible”.

AGPPA said it wants to make all schools “student free” by the end of this week to allow staff time to prepare for and enact continuity of teaching and learning at home following a planning period.

The Association also wants the government to explore all avenues to accommodate the children of essential service workers and vulnerable children where required, and to acknowledge the health concerns of staff working in Government Primary Schools all around Australia.

“This would provide time and space to ensure that Government Primary Schools are best positioned to support the continuity of teaching and learning for the young children of this country,” he said.

On Tuesday, Victorian schools went pupil-free after the state’s Premier, Daniel Andrews announced that the Easter break would be bought forward to March 24.

"We have taken the decision to bring forward the school holidays and spend these precious days to prepare for distance and remote learning," Andrews said.

"Term 2 is scheduled to begin on 14 April and people should plan for this unless I have medical advice not to proceed with Term 2 at school".

ACT also implemented pupil-free days from Tuesday through to the school holidays despite statements from the Prime Minister that schools should remain open.

"Moving to pupil free days now will provide schools and teachers with time to prepare for a range of learning delivery options, including online, similar to how distance education is provided in remote areas,” the ACT Government’s statement read.

Schools remain open in other states and territories.