QUEENSLAND will close schools from next week to all but the children of essential workers.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced schools would move to pupil-free days from next week, although anyone with a job would still be able to send their children to school.
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“Next week Queensland schools will move to student free days ... schools will remain open to allow children of essential workers and vulnerable children to remain at school,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
The ruling applies to all schools, not just state schools.
The pupil-free days will allow teachers to remain at work and prepare future learning materials, Ms Palaszczuk said.
Education Minister Grace Grace said Queensland did have to “prepare for what the potential future may be”.
“So from Monday the 30th of March, we will be moving to student free days, but we do stress that schools will remain open for children of essential workers, that is those who are required in the workplace,” she said.
“It is vital we remain open for these workers because we don’t want to put pressure on the economy.”
“Schools are open for essential workers and workers required in the workplace ... and obviously vulnerable children will be catered for as well,” Ms Grace said.
“We are planning for all kind of scenarios... and that’s why next week is important for teachers to be given the time to plan the learning materials for what may be needed.”
Kindies will follow suit with pupil-free days next week so that teachers can prepare remote learning and activities for children as well.
Long daycare centres will be open but Education Minister Grace Grace asked parents to adhere to strict isolation requirements and that only the essential workers and workers required in their workplaces use daycare centres.
“Teachers will move to developing remote learning for students and all those learning materials for what may lie ahead,” Ms Grace said.
The Palaszczuk Government has until now maintained a national line that schools were safe to attend, although had told parents they may choose to keep their children at home this week if they were available to care for them there.
The Premier said the health advice that schools were safe had not changed.
“Let me give this very clear message to parents who will have their children at home next week: They should be learning from home, they should not be out in the shopping centres,” she said.
And she said they should not be visiting any grandparents with risk-factors for coronavirus.
When asked how long the measures would be in place and if they would continue after the term break, the Premier said they were preparing for “every scenario”.
Queensland chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young said she was happy with the decision.
“By reducing the numbers of children at school, we can make sure our older and vulnerable teachers aren’t in classrooms and increase the amount of social distancing in our schools, so it’s the perfect solution,” she said.
The Queensland Teachers’ Union also welcomed the decision for students to be given pupil-free days and to move Queensland schools from “business as usual”.
“Teachers will be engaged in preparation and planning in their schools around remote and flexible delivery into the future should schools close as a consequence of the national response to the pandemic,” QTU president Kevin Bates said.
“Schools will continue to provide supervision for children of essential services workers and vulnerable children including those in out of home care, students with disabilities who do not have medical complications and children for whom no other appropriate care arrangements are available - for example if both parents are working and their child could be at school and supervised.”