QLD teachers ‘thrown under bus’ by school closure stance

 

ANXIOUS Queensland teachers say they are being treated as scapegoats and have been "thrown under the bus" by the government's refusal to close down schools.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced Australia's toughest measures yet on social distancing, in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus and to allow health and other vital workers to keep performing their jobs.

But he says the medical advice on school closures remains unchanged, pointing repeatedly to evidence that children rarely suffer serious illness if they become infected.

Teachers who spoke to AAP on condition of anonymity say the lack of discussion about what might happen to teachers if they are infected by their students has left them feeling abandoned and dispensable.

Prim Minister Scott Morrison announces a national lockout in response to coronavirus. Picture: TEN
Prim Minister Scott Morrison announces a national lockout in response to coronavirus. Picture: TEN

And they say schools are lacking basic supplies, including soap, making it impossible for students to follow basic hygiene advice about washing hands regularly.

"Personally I am disgusted with the message being sent that we are glorified babysitters so that others can go to work. The message that teachers are sacrificial lambs," one Gold Coast high school teacher told AAP.

She said the government's position was riddled with inconsistencies.

"The message (is) that if schools close, kids will congregate in groups in public and increase the spread of the virus - but apparently kids in groups at school do not do this?

"I am an asthmatic so I am in a higher risk category but according to the government I am safe at school because it doesn't affect kids as badly."

The high school teacher also said hand sanitiser and wipes were not being issued, and her school's supply order just hasn't turned up.

"I often hear students complaining that the soap has run out in their toilets (and) it is impossible to maintain social distancing in classrooms." Another teacher who works in a primary school in Queensland's southeast says she can't be named because "I'll lose my job".

She said nothing was being said about teachers who were putting themselves at risk by going to work with "insufficient soap, no towels" and no hope of enacting the government's rules on indoor social distancing. "Teachers have been thrown under the bus. Teachers are used to making do, and doing what's best for the kids, but it seems that the government isn't thinking about us.

"Many teachers are over 50, pregnant, are immuno-compromised, or care for parents or their own children." A week ago, Queensland Teachers Union president Kevin Bates told teachers the only thing to be done was to follow the official advice about school operations. But his comments have hardened in recent days, and he's been acknowledging the anger and anxiety among teachers statewide.

"You cannot argue that the whole community should shut down, and we should keep our schools open without any change," he told ABC radio after the prime minister ordered Australia's primary places of social gathering to close from midday. The QTU Executive is due to meet for an emergency session on Monday morning, to consider the federal government's social shutdown measures announced on Sunday.

 

Originally published as Confusion over coronavirus school closures