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Principal defends teachers against claim they are ‘enjoying free time at home’

A Sydney principal has defended her staff against accusations from parents that teachers are “enjoying free time at home” instead of running online classes, as diverging approaches to remote schooling become flash points within school communities.

In a letter to parents, the principal of Oran Park Public, Donna Shevlin, said teachers were working harder than ever. The use of Zoom for remote learning was neither mandatory nor expected, she said, and teachers could choose whether to use it.

The inconsistent nature of remote learning, even within the public system, has been a point of conflict within communities.

The inconsistent nature of remote learning, even within the public system, has been a point of conflict within communities.

The inconsistent nature of remote learning, even within the public system, has been a point of conflict within communities. At some schools, the lack of online classes has frustrated parents who see the neighbouring school running Zoom timetables while their children do written assignments.

At one lower north shore school, where the lack of Zoom classes has been a controversial topic, a year 6 student was suspended from Google Classroom for 24 hours for trying to survey her fellow students on whether they would prefer more online classes.

One frustrated parent whose child attends a school in another part of Sydney, and who did not want to be named to protect their child, told the Herald: “What are the teachers doing if they’re not doing any online teaching and they’re not at the school teaching? I really want to know.”

In her letter, Ms Shevlin said her staff were making videos, preparing classes, marking and calling families. They were working on site on a roster, meeting policy obligations and managing their own children.

“Unfortunately, some parents have advised us that they think our teachers are doing less, and that they are all enjoying free time at home. I can assure you all that our teachers are now doing more,” she wrote.

“Not only are they managing the usual complexities of the teaching profession, they also each have their own personal lives.” Some have health conditions, some have spouses who have lost their jobs, some have up to four of their own children, she said.

While some parents were requesting two or more Zooms per day, the use of Zoom in a public primary school was “not mandatory nor expected,” she wrote. “If teachers choose to engage in Zoom, it is their choice.” A survey at Oran Park found most families wanted learning from home packs, she said, and less than five per cent of parents took up the offer of a device.

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