Page 60 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 8 February 2022

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Motion (by Mr Gentleman) agreed to:

That the changes to the membership of the Standing Committees, as proposed, and agreed to by the Speaker, pursuant to standing order 223, be adopted.

Sitting suspended from 12.15 to 2.00 pm.

Questions without notice

COVID-19 pandemic—teachers

MR HANSON: Madam Speaker, my question is to the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs. Minister, over the break we have heard from teachers directly that many ACT schools do not have enough teachers from day one of this term, even without COVID outbreaks. Minister, how many schools in the ACT did not have the full complement of teachers on day one of this term?

MS BERRY: I thank Mr Hanson for the question. COVID and the Omicron variant have caused our schools to have plans in place to ensure that they have teachers in place, on the ground. If there are not enough teachers, there are strategies in place for schools to plan for different types of educational supervision of students while they are at school. There have been some teachers who have been affected by COVID and so have not been able to attend school. However, for the most part, they have been replaced with our casual relief-teaching workforce. I do not have the exact numbers at any point in time, and of course that changes every day and every week, as people move through their isolation periods with regard to COVID.

MR HANSON: Minister, how will schools cope with a COVID outbreak if they do not have enough teachers?

MS BERRY: There are a number of scenarios that the Education Directorate and schools have worked on to ensure that there are plans in place, should there be the need to have different activities occur in schools. If there is a severe shortage of teachers or school staff within a school, the Education Directorate and that school will plan what sort of action they might need to take. That could be, in the worst case scenario, a return, for some of those students, to remote education for a period of time. It might not be the same remote education that they experienced last year, because there might be teachers who are unwell and have to look after themselves and their families. However, those students will be supported with online resources from the school. As I said, that is the worst case scenario. Up until then, there are three other scenarios where there will be gradual changes or implementing the replacement of staff through our casual relief pool and also support from the Education Directorate.

MR PARTON: Minister, could you detail the plans for that worst case scenario with regard to remote learning, should that be enacted?

MS BERRY: I believe that those scenarios are publicly available. The opposition could avail themselves of that. I think I have pretty much given as much detail as I can. A school’s circumstances might be different from the scenario that I have described today.

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