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Principals demand end to face-to-face classes as school closures grow


The principal of Gisborne Secondary College, which is just outside Melbourne’s lockdown zone but has many students who attend from within it, had asked staff and students to wear masks days before the government adopted the same policy.

The schools within the Parkville and Malmsbury youth justice centres were also listed as closed on Monday.

The growing number of coronavirus-related closures led the Australian Principals’ Federation to call for “an immediate return to flexible learning for all students in metro Melbourne and Mitchell Shire”.

The principals’ union also lashed the Department of Health and Human Services’ “staggeringly poor” management of positive cases in schools, claiming schools had been left waiting for days for advice on how to handle closures and contact tracing.

Federation president Julie Podbury said principals had lost confidence in the Health Department.

“Extreme delays in decisions being communicated to school principals about closure and contact tracing has damaged many hard-won relationships in schools,” Ms Podbury said.

She called on the Andrews government to strip the DHHS of responsibility for communicating with schools.

“We believe that the Department of Education and Training should be the body communicating with schools about any COVID-19 matters, and DHHS should be cut out of the loop to avoid the confusion that is currently occurring.”

Secondary schools also received advice on Friday on how to prepare for a possible closure, including directing students to take text books and computers home at the end of each school day.

Sue Bell, president of the Victorian Association of State Secondary Schools, which issued the advice, said there was anxiety and frustration among school leaders.

“Principals are so used to communicating with their school communities and communications take too long to come through, so people are left hanging, not knowing what’s happening, which creates more anxiety,” Ms Bell said.

But Premier Daniel Andrews rejected the notion of a return to remote learning for senior students, reiterating the advice from the Chief Health Officer that schools can open safely.

He said closing all schools “would not be a proportionate response”.


“We’ve got a real focus at the moment on getting that deep cleaning done as quickly as we possibly can and making sure that schools can reopen as quickly as possible,” Mr Andrews said.

He called on senior students to focus on their studies, praising Victorian teachers as the best in the world.

“They work very hard and did a magnificent job last time and I’m confident they’re doing their very best now,” he said.

Students in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire in years 11 and 12, year 10 students taking senior subjects and specialist school students are attending face-to-face classes in term three, while all other years learn remotely.

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