NT Education says parents can decide to send kids to school


Posted

March 26, 2020 18:19:25

Schools in the Northern Territory will stay open and go pupil-free for the last week of term — despite earlier calls from the teachers’ union to close classrooms earlier for most students.

Key points:

  • The final four days of the NT school term will be pupil-free days
  • It will be professional development days for staff to prepare for term two
  • The Education Department has been working to develop online units for next term

Education Minister Selena Uibo said it would remain up to families to decide if their children should stay home from school, despite southern states now urging parents to keep their kids at home.

“Our schools are safe places for our children, and our teachers and our principals,” Ms Uibo said.

Australian Education Union NT president Jarvis Ryan yesterday called on the NT Government to close Territory schools from Monday, with exceptions for kids in need.

In a compromise with the union, Ms Uibo today announced the final four days of this school term — Monday, April 6 to Thursday, April 9 — would be professional development days for staff to prepare for term two.

For students, they will be pupil-free days, although the children of essential workers and vulnerable students can still attend school as normal.

The minister said no child who went to school on the pupil-free days would be turned away.

Union welcomes changes

Mr Ryan said the changes would “relieve the pressure” for Territory teachers.

“We can’t carry on with business as usual,” he said.

“The Minister’s announcement is a circuit breaker. It shows the NT Government has listened to the concerns of our union and its members, by acknowledging the growing stress level of teachers, principals and other school-based staff.”

Queensland and South Australia both announced they would go “student free” in coming weeks, although schools would remain open for the children of parents working in essential services.

Ms Uibo was asked why her government’s decision was at odds with that of larger states.

“Queensland is due for their school holidays starting on the 6th of April which is different timing for us,” Ms Uibo said.

“Our school holidays were due to start on the 13th of April so [Queensland has] made the decision to use their pupil free days in the week leading up to the school holiday break.”

Ms Uibo also said the NT had recorded far fewer cases of COVID-19 and there had been no community spread of the virus.

Students who were not attending school in the NT needed to stay at home, Ms Uibo added.

She also said the NT Government was closely tracking attendance data and had not seen the same attendance drops as other states.

Term two information

The government says term two will commence as scheduled on Monday April 20 at this stage.

The Education Department is developing units of work for students to use at school and at home.

Ms Uibo said the resources would be available online and hard copies would be distributed to all government schools for every student across the NT.

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Education Department CEO Karen Weston, who only formally started in the role Monday, said the NT had experience in delivering distance education and would be drawing on that to develop next term’s resources.

“We think we’re in a good place in being able to continue student education,” she said.

“They’ve already been doing work for it for some time.”

Ms Weston said there would be flexibility in how remote community would deliver education next term.

The Australian Education Union NT’s Mr Ryan said some remote communities lacked reliable internet connections and resources like laptops, which would make teaching online a significant challenge.

How do I get tested in the NT?

  • If you can’t contact or get to your GP, but you have the symptoms, you should call 1800 008 002
  • This is a dedicated NT-wide coronavirus (COVID-19) number for people who need to arrange testing only
  • If you live in Darwin and need to arrange testing, call the Public Health Unit on 8922 8044
  • Patients who are tested should remain isolated at home until they receive their test results
  • For general advice, Territorians can call 1800 020 080

Latest information from SecureNT website

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