UNICEF Australia welcomes the steps being taken by the NSW Government to get Year 12 students back into the classroom.
As we have seen in Australia and throughout the world, school closures have serious effects on the education, development and well-being of children and adolescents and UNICEF Australia believes that these should only occur as a last resort in accordance with relevant health advice.
While precautions must continue to be taken to control the spread of COVID-19 in the community, including through school-based measures, a balance must be struck between imposing such measures and ensuring that children are able to continue learning and socialising to the greatest extent possible.
The state government’s strategy to vaccinate teachers and year 12 students, alongside the introduction of rapid antigen testing will help reduce the risk of transmission and allow for students to return to face-face schooling at a critically important time.
UNICEF Australia’s Chief Executive Officer Tony Stuart said “We welcome these measures as an encouraging first step, they give confidence that the Government is committed to prioritising the needs of young Australians. It is so important that schools are recognised as an essential industry, alongside other key activities such as construction.”
"We are all deeply concerned about the long-term impact remote learning will have on students, in particular on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. As students return it is important the disruption to students learning is assessed and supports are put in place to help students catch up."
UNICEF Australia commends the work of the NSW Government in helping to stem the spread of COVID-19 in the community, and to support the community to mitigate its worst impacts. We encourage the NSW Government to continue to prioritise the learning, health and wellbeing requirements of children and young people in the State in its overall response. We believe that it is important to consider further steps which will facilitate the safe return to some face-to-face learning for students in primary and secondary students.
UNICEF Australia welcomes the prioritisation of vaccines for teachers in South Western Sydney. Teachers are front line workers and their access to vaccines should remain a priority as part of the Government’s plan to safely reopen schools.
UNICEF Australia thanks teachers and school administrators for their leadership and hard work during this challenging time to ensure students are supported in their learning.