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23 January 2022

Children have the right to equal access to education, and we cannot back down from reopening schools on schedule this year, UNICEF Australia said today.

Collaboration by the New South Wales and Victorian state governments for a united and consistent approach to return to school is a win for advancing children’s learning, and physical and mental wellbeing.

“Children have suffered from school closures during the pandemic and it is essential that we continue to strive to keep schools open, by taking proportionate, evidence-based responses to outbreaks,” said UNICEF Australia CEO Tony Stuart.

“The pandemic is persistent and the measures we must take may not be easy, but we must not relent because the benefits to children and families of having children in school far outweighs the alternative.”

Child vaccination has a major role in achieving consistently open schools and attendance of students.

To support the best educational outcomes for children in 2022, UNICEF Australia recommends:

  • Utilising schools as vaccination hubs to ensure rapid and equitable access to vaccines;
  • Assessing learning loss and extending the NSW and Victorian Governments tutoring program longer-term, targeting students and schools that have fallen furthest behind. 

Australia made significant progress at the end of 2021 to put a circle of safety around students by vaccinating teachers and school staff, as well as many secondary school students. We are continuing to make in-roads with vaccinations being made available for primary school students.

“A successful year for schools in 2022 will require many elements to come together,” said Mr Stuart. “We encourage families and school staff to be vaccinated, schools to have open and frequent communication with their communities, and ensure we continue the basics of COVID defence including hand washing, sanitisation and mask wearing where possible.”