Children in Sydney’s west bear the brunt of pandemic restrictions


Professor James McCaw of the University of Melbourne, who led a team that provided epidemic analysis to the federal government, said during the pandemic it “became clear that we shouldn’t have closed schools for as long as we did it”.


“Once vaccination rates increased and Delta was in circulation, keeping schools open should have had more weight in the decision-making process,” McCaw said.

NSW Secondary Principals’ Council chairman Craig Petersen said deprived communities were hit hardest by the closures. However, he was concerned about suggestions that schools should have remained open.

“We have had a very high number of infections among students and staff, and it would not have been possible to keep schools open when there are not enough staff to run classes,” he said. said Petersen, adding that staff and students would have been at increased risk of contracting it. the virus.

The Shergold report found that at the start of the pandemic, when less was known about the spread of the virus, it was a good idea to close schools. But as it turned out that classrooms were not major transmission areas, it was the wrong decision to close the schools.


“For children and parents (especially women), we have failed to strike the right balance between protecting health and imposing long-term costs on education,” the report said.

Former NSW Education Standards Authority chairman Tom Alegounarias said most school systems were not structured or resourced for the kind of “mass remediation that schools in need will need in the wake of COVID. “.

“We cannot afford to ignore that the educational impacts will reverberate for years to come,” he said. “We normally consider capital support as a marginal supplement. No OECD system has been put in place to compensate for this type of impact. We need to adjust as the report recommends.

Jenny Donovan, head of the government-funded Australian Education Research Organisation, said care needed to be taken that school absenteeism did not become chronic and pointed out that student participation in NAPLAN had dropped to a low record this year.


Tens of thousands of students failed the test in May which led the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority to delay the release of preliminary data.

“Online learning was hit or miss, it worked for some, but for others it wasn’t the best experience. If students have had an extended period of no learning success, it is very easy to lose that commitment. Disengagement can be very difficult to reverse.

The report suggests that system-wide shutdowns could be avoided by opting for “geographically targeted shutdowns or a staggered approach”, with only certain age groups switching to remote learning, while other students remain on the campus.

An expert in education measurement, Professor Jim Tognolini of the University of Sydney, said that from a purely academic point of view, some of the hardest hit local government areas in Sydney during the lockdown have obtained Australian tertiary admission ranks higher than in previous years.

Ben Zunica, a high school maths teacher and lecturer in education at the University of Sydney, said once students returned from the Delta lockdown there was a ‘learning deficit’ caused by classes from a distance.

“They didn’t get the concepts as well as expected, which I think was a lot of the loss of one-on-one time you can get in class,” Zunica said.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who previously indicated he intended to convene a royal commission into the pandemic, said the Shergold report raised “concerns” and reaffirmed his commitment to a full investigation. But he gave no indication of when it would be established.

“I have made it clear that my government will in future undertake a proper investigation into the impact of the pandemic. [and] the actions of governments. We must learn the lessons of the pandemic,” he said.

With Lisa Visentin

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