Victorian teachers are divided about heading back to school, with many saying they feel unsupported by the government’s change of plans.
On Tuesday morning, Premier Daniel Andrews announced that students across Victoria will begin returning to school from May 26.
Initially, children in prep, grade 1, grade 2, year 11 and year 12 will lead the staggered return to the classroom.
Many teachers were outraged by the decision, with one saying she felt like Mr Andrews was “throwing us all under the bus”.
“All that expense and all the teachers’ hard work to save lives, and you threw us all under the bus,” she told The New Daily.
“Thanks for not caring about parents, teachers and grandparents.”
Others said they were keen to go back, but the fact they were not told about the announcement beforehand showed a disrespect for the work they had already done.
“He said we were staying home all term, so I’m actually pleased he has rethought it,’ said one Melbourne teacher.
“But I do not appreciate that the announcement was made at 8am on Tuesday morning and principals were not aware beforehand.
“We had students in period one asking us questions.”
It gave them no time to prepare responses to questions from students and parents, she said.
“I had another teacher friend message me at 8.55am saying ‘What the f—, announcements have gone out, I’m about to go online teaching now’.”
However, many said they were happy to be back in the classroom, particularly as parents had been feeling the pressure.
“I think it’s definitely starting to show. Parents are frustrated with the process,” she said.
“I think parents have realised how hard it is to keep kids on task. But they have had expectations that are too high.”
It’s not just parents. Kids are starting to feel the downside of online learning too.
“It’s worn them down. They can’t see their friends. It’s not conducive to a great learning environment.
“I think about the kids from disadvantaged backgrounds and how much it will benefit them to be back at school in a normal routine.”
In an email sent to teachers and seen by The New Daily, the government has outlined how it will keep them safe as they transition back to classroom learning.
It includes staggered start and finishing times to avoid contact, enhanced classroom cleaning, and voluntary testing for all staff.
“All school staff will have access to voluntary prioritised coronavirus (COVID-19) testing for a two-week period,” it reads.
“Participation in testing will be entirely voluntary but will be available for all staff, including those who are asymptomatic.”
Teachers were also told if they felt unwell they were not allowed on school grounds.
Some would need to adjust their classrooms to adhere to social distancing restrictions.
“Adjustments should be made to teaching and learning environments, including maintaining a distance of 1.5 metres between adults where possible, maximising airflow, using outdoor spaces and staggering break times,” the email states.
“Thank you once again for your outstanding work. The work principals, teachers and education support staff have all done is highly valued and recognised in and by the wider community.”