Schools may stay open only for kids of essential workers
QUEENSLAND schools may stay open with a skeleton staff to teach the children of essential workers like doctors, nurses and police officers.
The Queensland Teachers' Union, which had threatened strike action unless schools shut down, has been negotiating a compromise with Education Queensland to keep classrooms open for the children of "essential services workers''.
The definition of essential worker is still being discussed, but would include medical and ambulance staff, police and teachers.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said tonight an essential worker was "someone with a job", including supermarket shelf stackers and public servants.
Mr Morrison will meet Australian Education Union representatives on Wednesday to find ways to keep schools open and teachers safe.
With schools half-shut, teachers who are older, pregnant or with an underlying illness - all risk factors for coronavirus - could take leave or work from home preparing online lessons in "virtual classrooms''.
"All vulnerable staff will be required to work from home,'' QTU president Kevin Bates said.
"Some schools will have only a few students, others will be hundreds based on the employment profile of the parent community.
"All employees who are not sick or on other approved leave will continue to work under the direction of their principal - a variety of tasks are possible.''
Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace said yesterday "nothing is off the table''.
"The Queensland Government continues to listen to advice provided by health experts,'' she said.
"Deliberations on the right way forward are being shaped by new information as it comes to hand.''
The looming school shutdown is causing havoc for Year 12 students, the first cohort to apply for an Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) score to enter university.
ATAR relies on the results of exams more than did the old Overall Positioning (OP) system, which gave more weight to assignments.
QCAA chief executive Chris Rider yesterday said schools should "administer further assessments when they can''.
"While the QCAA can award valid and reliable results based on fewer than the four assessments mandated in syllabuses, it is obviously better to have as much data as possible about student achievement,'' he said.
"We already have student results in one of the assessments mandated in general subjects.
"Our process to quality assure these results will now occur online.
"The original plan would have seen several thousand teachers gather at a single venue.''
Education Queensland has backed down on threats to prosecute parents for truancy for choosing to pull their children out of school during the coronavirus crisis.
Schools are now letting parents keep their kids home, or send them to school only for exams.
Australia's biggest school, Kelvin Grove State College, told parents yesterday they can choose to send kids to school for "exams only''.
"If you choose to keep your child at home, you must be responsible for them to ensure they stay at home and that they continue their learning using the material and websites available online,'' executive principal Llew Paulger said.
"Teachers are not expected to be preparing additional materials for your child, above what is already provided in class.''
Mr Paulger said "state schools will remain open at this stage''.
Parents can access online lessons on Education Queensland's new learning@home website
Originally published as Schools may stay open only for kids of essential workers