Australia

States move to close schools to most students as COVID-19 cases rise

A closed primary school in Melbourne’s inner north Source: AAP

Queensland, South Australia and WA have joined Victoria and the ACT in bringing forward school holidays.

Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia have moved to close schools to most students as they battle to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Leaders in all three states said school holidays would be brought forward, in a similar move to what Victoria and the ACT have already done.

Teachers will still be at schools so parents who have essential jobs, such as healthcare workers and people who stack supermarket shelves, can send their children.

But all other students are being asked to stay home. 

Schools will return after the holidays with distance education.

Queensland

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the heath advice that has kept schools open so far has not changed, but the pupil-free directive provides the right balance given community concerns.

“Schools will remain open to allow children of essential workers and vulnerable children to remain at school,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced schools will become "student free".
AAP

"It's not just our health workers, it's not just our emergency services workers, it's not just our police workers, it actually involves anyone who's in our workforce including people who stack shelves at Woolies." 

Students in the state were originally scheduled to commence Easter holidays on 3 April, but their last day of term one will now be tomorrow. 

Teachers will use the student-free days next week to prepare to go online for term two. 

Western Australia 

The West Australian government is urging parents to keep their children home as of next week if they can access online and other learning resources, as major changes to the public education system are planned during the coronavirus crisis.

Until 3 April, all students who need to attend school - either because they live with grandparents or their parents are working - will continue to be taught.

But teachers and education assistants will use the final four days before Easter to prepare for different arrangements in term two, so pupils who need to attend during this period will only be supervised.

Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia have moved to close schools to most students as they battle to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia have moved to close schools to most students as they battle to slow the spread of coronavirus.
SBS

WA Education Minister Sue Ellery said public education after the holidays could be a combination of online and physical teaching.

"Education in term two is most likely to look different," Ms Ellery told reporters on Thursday.

"I think it will be a combination of physical attendance at schools - maybe some schools, maybe all schools - plus a combination of distance education, which will be hard copy packs and online."

The State School Teachers' Union of WA said it welcomed the decision to introduce pupil-free days from 6 April, but they should be implemented sooner.

"We understand the government is facing unprecedented challenges at the moment, but these measures will be extremely difficult to implement," WA president Pat Byrne said.

"It is not possible for schools to make plans to accommodate students when they have no idea how many are actually going to turn up."

South Australia

The Easter break in South Australia will be extended by four days. The holidays there were due to begin on 10 April, but will now commence on 6 April.

Education Minister John Gardener said the change will assist the state's educators to plan and transition to flexible learning in term two.

"With the increasing number of children absent from our schools. our teachers need this time to prepare for the difficult challenge of meeting the needs of learners who are at home," Mr Gardener said.

NSW schools to remain open

NSW schools remain open but Premier Gladys Berejiklian has urged parents to keep their children at home if possible.

On Thursday, she flagged her state was readying to move into a full lockdown over the weekend, possibly ahead of federal government action, if the situation with the spread of the virus doesn't improve.

Victorian leader Daniel Andrews made similar comments on Wednesday.

The nation has already had two waves of business closures this week - leading to thousands of people losing their jobs - in a bid to stop people gathering in large numbers or close spaces.

Ms Berejiklian says the success of these measures would be judged by the number of community-to-community transmissions of COVID-19, rather than total case numbers.

St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney earlier this week.
St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney earlier this week.
Getty

"I'm saying to the community that if we're not convinced we've had a sufficient amount of success, NSW will have to take further action and that's a position I've been clear on from day one," she told reporters.

"If there's a significant shift ... you know you need to take further action."

Australians must stay at least 1.5 metres away from other people. Indoors, there must be a density of no more than one person per four square metres of floor space.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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