AEU Victoria Return to School statement

The following comments are attributable to Meredith Peace, Australian Education Union Victorian Branch president:

“Teachers, principals and support staff in schools and early childhood have been wanting to see a comprehensive return to school plan. The measures outlined by the Andrews Government today will help to reduce risk and also focus on the health and safety of staff and students, while balancing the need to have our students back at school and in EC settings where they can continue to access the high-quality education and support they need in a face to face environment. However, we must continue to monitor the implementation of the plan and its adequacy given the gravity of the circumstances we are dealing with, and the continuously changing nature of this virus.

“It is critical that these risk mitigation strategies are constantly monitored and updated to account for any challenges that require a stronger or different approach, in consultation with health experts and the union. We will be raising any concerns about the health and safety of our members directly with the Department where appropriate guidelines are not being followed.

“It is also important to ensure that these guidelines are implemented uniformly across all schools and early childhood settings.

“Arrangements for principals, teachers and education support staff to be given priority access to booster vaccine appointments is vital to ensure that school staff can be further vaccinated by the deadlines announced today.

“The provision of rapid antigen tests (RATs) is critical to the Andrews government’s return to school and EC plan, so we will also have to monitor and ensure a constant supply of RATs and masks to schools so that students and teachers have access to that additional measure to reduce the risks they confront.

“We continue to reject the close contact exemption and isolation rules for school staff  where they are  asymptomatic, as their attendance at work will increase the risk of transmission and  potentially compromise the safety of the school community.”