Principals voice concern over teacher wellbeing

Principals voice concern over teacher wellbeing

As debate rages over the return date of kids to the classroom the Australian Primary Principals Association calls for school leaders to be involved in the decision making.

In a statement this week, the Australian Primary Principals Association (APPA) said it was concerned over the health risks to teachers, saying the safety of teachers is “far from guaranteed” despite medical opinion that risks are low in school settings.

“Whilst it is a huge blessing that Covid-19 has had thus far limited impact on the young, the concern of the APPA is with the many members of the teaching population being of an age where this virus has a stronger effect on older Australians,” APPA president Malcolm Elliott said.

“Our school leaders and teachers who have remained on duty are stressed, anxious and in many cases fatigued and if we are to see a return to school of the majority of students, then this must be done with the support of educators”.

Elliott said the “ambiguity” of health messaging around the safety of the classroom environment is confusing for teachers, who are being asked to continue to work in a mass gathering setting.

“This is why the APPA is urging state and territory governments to include school principals in collaborative discussions about school strategy before announcements are made on the return dates of students,” he said.

“Everyone wants school and life to get back to some sense of normality, but we must take the time necessary to allow schools to adapt and for systems to develop to ensure the safety of school staff as we plan all elements of school operations”.

Elliott said that whilst the APPA “places much emphasis” on the views of the nation’s Chief Medical Officers, and admires the work they have done in keeping Australia safe during this crisis, it is the APPA’s “firm belief as an organisation that collaboration utilising education experts is essential as the strategies for return to full schooling are developed and then implemented”.

Meanwhile, a new study by Dr Adele Schmidt – a research officer for the Independent Education Union of Australia – Queensland and Northern Territory (IEUA-QNT) branch – warns that reopening schools at this time could be dangerous.

She says current calls for face-to-face teaching to resume “ignored” established research regarding the potential for students to infect scores of contacts with a disease in a given day.

“So much is still unknown about this disease and a shift back to ‘business as usual’ in our schools is a fraught and dangerous one,” Dr Schmidt said.