Response to Agenda Item MR 20/002 for ESC Meeting 11th February 2020
I acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land upon which we meet today. I pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging.
While I applaud the sentiment evident in Councillor Innes’ proposal for a non-compulsory school break at the end of Term 1 or the commencement of Term 2, I foresee a number of logistic and organisational issues in the implementation of this proposal. As a retired executive teacher I offer the following observations from my school management perspective:
1. The organisation of a week of fun activities would place a significant increase in workload on all school staff.
2. Teachers and school support staff were also impacted by the catastrophic fires in our region. Apart from property loss and damage, teachers were unable to plan and prepare for the new school year as power outages and the unavailability of communications made this task impossible. Many teachers and their families spent time in January volunteering at various support centres, cleaning and repairing their properties, or volunteering time at school to look after children while parents conducted necessary post fire business.
3. Currently, teachers and support staff are in the acute stages of dealing with traumatised students and families. School has provided children with a safe place of normality and welcome routine where they can resume their day to day lives. It is important that this security and predictability is maintained.
4. Excursions cost money. Many families are struggling financially while they await insurance, government and charitable support. This proposal could place further unnecessary burden on their shoulders.
5. Excursions take considerable time to organise. After deciding on a venue, transport must be organised along with an appropriate staff to student supervision ratio, provision for students with special needs must be made, risk management paperwork must be completed and lodged with educational management for approval. All of the above needs to take place weeks before the excursion takes place.
6. All volunteers in NSW schools must complete a Working With Children Check before they are permitted to work alongside children. This would apply to retired teachers, sports persons, artists and others. They are not permitted by law to simply walk into a school and help.
7. Risk Management paperwork must be completed for every activity that is proposed. Is it the expectation of Councillor Innes that schools will do this?
8. Amendment – Perhaps a suitable and workable amendment could be that the Council requests that all public, Catholic and Independent schools in bushfire impacted regions in NSW be given an extra weeks holiday, with the NSW and/or Federal Governments funding existing Out of School Hours Centres to provide additional places during that week for children of families who require additional care. These centres could deliver the supervision and fun activities that Councillor Innes has described. Or parents could opt to spend the time with their children.
Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to make this presentation to you today.