Australia: Victorian students return to schools after months of learning from home

Australia/October 13, 2020/Source:

The State Government has given assurances over the safety of school environments as hundreds of thousands of children return to face-to-face learning across Melbourne and regional Victoria this week, after two months of learning from home.

About 584,000 children, from prep to year seven, and VCE students returned today, with schools given the option to stagger the return of all year levels to classroom learning over the course of the week.

Students in regional Victoria began returning to schools last week.

Education Minister James Merlino said Victorians should be proud of the efforts they’ve made to allow students to return to face-to-face learning.

“We’re at this point now where people are back at school because of the success of Victorians in driving down the numbers,” he said.

Schools in a ‘good position’ to offer safe learning

One school, Nazareth College in Noble Park, in Melbourne’s south-east, is closed after a year 12 student tested positive to coronavirus over the weekend.

The student sat exams at the school last week, and the campus is undergoing a deep clean.

But, the Education Minister cited a report from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, prepared at the request of the health department, which concluded schools and childcare centres represented a low transmission risk, and that off-site learning should be a last resort.

“You will have cases but we’ve got the systems in place to get the school reopened as quickly as possible and I’m confident that will happen with Nazareth,” Mr Merlino said.

A photograph of Spring Park Primary School preparing to welcome back students
Spring Park Primary School, in Melbourne’s south-east, has rolled out the red carpet for students returning to school this week.(ABC News: Stephanie Ferrier)

The principal of Spring Park Primary School in Melbourne’s south-east, Julie Fisher, said her school had literally rolled out the red carpet for returning students.

“The protocols are even more heightened for this return to school,” she said.

“We’ve got cleaners coming in for five hours a day wiping down the tables, all the high touch points. I feel we’re in a really good position to offer a safe learning environment.”

Students face a challenge readjusting to life back in the classroom

The Education Minister said mental health support for returning students will be important now that they’re back at school.

“The very first priority for schools will be on students’ mental health and wellbeing, getting them reconnected with their friends and their peers, get them back into the school routine,” Mr Merlino said.

“Many students have thrived, many students have also struggled and will require that catch-up support.”

The Victorian Principals Federation President, Julie Podbury, warned many students will have to be “re-socialised” when they return to school, and some face a major readjustment to their learning practices.

Some parents had raised concerns about the effect school closures could have on results, but Julie Podbury said students had handled the situation well.

“It’s not as dramatic as many people would think, some schools have reported to me,” she said.

“In fact, a significant number of schools have reported to me that there’s little difference in the academic progress of the students from a normal school year.”

A picture taken inside a classroom at Sunshine College with students wearing masks.
Students at Sunshine College, in Melbourne’s west, have returned to their classrooms after weeks of learning from home.(ABC News: Gemma Hall)

Most Victorian students have been learning from home since early August, and child psychologist Deirdre Brandner warned parents to be aware of how big a change moving back into a classroom environment would be for many students.

“There’s a lot of mixed emotions this morning as they head to school after a significant break and whilst many parents out there are quite joyful about this experience, we also need to be conscious of the impact of this for children who have been home for such a long time,” Ms Brandner said.

Grade six student at Spring Park Primary, Kallfu Llangkafilu, said he was looking forward to getting back into the school environment.

“I missed most of the second and third term, luckily I get to do this term though,” he said.

“I haven’t really talked to most of [my friends]. I’ve talked to them a little bit over the internet but most of them I haven’t really talked to so I think it will be a great time to talk to them again.”

A photography of student Kallfu Llangkafilu walking back into school past principal Julie Fisher.
Year Six student at Spring Park Primary, Kallfu Llangkafilu, said he was looking forward to seeing his friends after being welcomed back to school by principal, Julie Fisher.(ABC News: Stephanie Ferrier)

Another Spring Park student, Lucas Chuah, said he’d found learning from home challenging at times.

“I’m looking forward to learning in the classroom because online I get really distracted with things happening in the house and online,” he said.

Lucas’s mother, Karyn Chau, said her children had picked up some new skills while learning from home that she hoped they would benefit from back in the classroom.

“Well they’ve picked up a lot of internet skills through all their online learning with the teachers and the Zooms that they’ve been doing,” said Karyn.

“I think it will translate quite nicely back into the school that they’re doing.”

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Docente - Investigadora Educativa.
Doctora en Cs. de la Educación, Magíster en Desarrollo Curricular y Licenciada en Relaciones Industriales.

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Australia: Victorian students return to schools after months of learning from home – Sarraute Educación María Magdalena

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