The first rule of Coronavirus is “Don’t Panic." The current infection trends have so many Australians worried about Coronavirus that we’re collectively getting a bit carried away. It never hurts to take precautions and plan, but panicking has already proven problematic – inexplicably, around toilet paper!
For parents, a big concern is Queensland school shutdowns due to Coronavirus (COVID-19). The lack of information available about school closure contingency plans is frustrating. The State Government is likely concerned about fuelling the fear around Coronavirus. So how do you plan for school closures when there’s no information available? For now, it’s not known if families will be expected to provide temporary home-schooling, or whether you’ll be able to keep sending the kids to school.
We’re all still hoping that this virus will be stopped long before school closures are necessary but here is what we know so far. Access the Federal Health website to stay on top of news around Coronavirus.
To learn more about A Team Tuition's services in the case of school shut downs, please get in touch.
READ ALSO: How to prepare for school closures right now
What happened when schools in Japan shut down?
Noriko is mother to three kids under 12. She’s also a pharmacist in Osaka, in Japan. Her oldest daughter attends public school, followed by daily Cram School (private tutoring companies attended by many older children after school in Japan), her middle child is in a public state school and her youngest is in private day care. March is the end of the school year in Japan, so many students are missing their final exams before heading off to “spring break”.
As a pharmacist, Noriko continues to work full time during the COVID-19 shutdowns. At present, there is no "on the spot" testing to determine if patients have a regular flu or Coronavirus. All patients are simply treated as “sick with a virus." Despite her prefecture opting to shut down many schools, Noriko says she’s seen no noticeable difference in the number of people seeking flu treatments.
How Japan battled Covid-19 in the schoolyard
The Japanese federal government gave authority to each prefecture, city and private company to make decisions on closures, rather than ordering a “blanket rule” about school shutdowns. Noriko’s youngest child attends private Daycare as usual but her older children go to schools that opted to shut down. How are Noriko and her neighbours managing?
- With the higher risk to elderly people, many families have chosen not to rely on grandparents for child care. The Japanese government is providing a small stipend for workers forced to stay home to care for children.
- Daycare centres are currently “overbooked” and experiencing waitlists for additional days and new students.
- The Japanese government is providing “isolated school-based study” for children who simply have nowhere else to go. Children sit alone in a classroom, or with just a couple of their cohorts and avoid physical contact at all times. These children study, do art and are supervised but do not undertake regular lessons.
- For children old enough to be home alone, the government is providing affordable “meal deliveries’ where the delivery drivers “check in” on the kids. A little like meals on wheels for children.
- Private Outside School Hours Care is still available.
- Graduation ceremonies are due this month, but many have been cancelled. Some students have had to defer their final exams.
- Students were sent home with textbooks and access to a small selection of pre-recorded online lessons (these have now run out). Some schools have provided home-schooling curriculum for parents but it’s strictly optional. Noriko and her husband are currently working full-time and then home-schooling their children at night.
- Many private cram schools (private tutoring classes) are now closed, including the one attended by Noriko’s daughter.
- Online tutoring is in very high demand with most of the larger online tutoring firms and English schools completely booked out and not accepting new students.
- Some private schools are offering one-on-one teaching sessions and group video “lectures” online.
- The US CDC and other authorities are reportedly urging school shutdowns as early as possible to contain the disease.
Is temporary home-schooling an option in Australia?
Australia has an extensive home-school network and infrastructure for remote lessons and assessments. These, however, are designed for parents who have opted to (or have no choice due to location or special needs) permanently home-school their children. While home-schooling has become very popular in Australia, the current system isn’t designed for “casual or temporary home-schooling."
Instead of relying on the current system, it’s more likely parents will face an “ad hoc” approach to keeping up with the curriculum. This could involve lesson plans arriving digitally from the school for parents to “teach” to their children at home. For parents unable to provide home-school style lessons, it may fall to the child’s tutor to provide lesson instruction, either in person or online.
What can we learn from the school closure in New South Wales?
When Epping Boys High School uncovered 11 cases of Coronavirus on campus, the school conducted a thorough disinfection while students stayed at home. Students and staff who test positive or have had close contact with those infected have now entered 14 days of self-isolation. At the time of publication, the school was back to business as usual. With more cases transmitted on Australian soil however, there are other New South Wales schools considering full shutdown.
The Victorian Government has reassured parents that “Special Provisions for Classroom Learning” will apply to Coronavirus-affected students, meaning students should be provided with extra time and assistance to catch up if their school is shut down.
There are reportedly moves to digitise lesson plans and to ensure all students have access to digital learning aids. From there, students can log in and continue with their studies with assistance from parents in a temporary home-schooling fashion.
How can Australian families prepare for Coronavirus at school?
First, do not panic. It may never happen, and if it does, it may only affect small groups of students, not the entire student body. The best preparation you can do right now is to teach your kids to take precautions, including proper hand washing. While little is yet known about COVID-19 transmission and long-term effects, children have so far, suffered fewer symptoms than adults. Kids are generally considered at lower risk of serious health complications than the elderly and immunocompromised. But what if the worst happens?
Speak to your school
Speak to your school about their in-house contingency plan around possible closures. In Australia, it’s likely that the State Governments will be responsible for school closure policy so very little information will be available until there is an issue. Discuss your situation with the OSHC team at your school.
Speak to your boss
In Queensland, it is a criminal offense to leave children under 12 home alone for an unreasonable amount of time. You may wish to consult with your workplace about their Coronavirus contingency plan. If you’re able to, your workplace may allow for telecommuting while schools are closed. As older people are highest risk, relying on grandparents may not be an option. If school closures occur, alternative childcare may be over-booked and impossible to find. Consider making a contingency plan now.
Speak to your tutor
Whether you’re using “shop front’ or one-on-one tutoring services, you may need to change the way your child receives lessons. In Japan, online tutoring services sold out and became waitlisted very quickly. If your tutoring firm offers online tutoring, speak to them immediately about availability and priority for existing students in the event of school closures. For our clients, we currently offer limited online tutoring across Australia. Our online tutoring will be offered first to existing students. Please get in touch now to register your interest in online tutoring in the event of Queensland school closures.
Is A Team Tuition taking new online tutoring students?
At present, online tutoring is a small part of the work we do with our students. Our priority, of course, is to provide an exemplary service to our existing kids. That means increasing our capacity to teach students online in the event of school shutdowns. At present, we provide online lessons via Zoom video conferencing and plan to increase this capacity if necessary