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Eight things to consider as we shut schools

COVID-19 ISSUES ALERT

The Victorian Government has brought forward autumn school holidays, essentially shutting public schools from Tuesday March 24th. This decision was made on the advice of the state’s Chief Health Officer.

VCOSS doesn’t have a formal view on this matter—that’s not our area.

But it must be acknowledged that closing schools, even temporarily, will produce wide ranging and potentially disastrous social consequences.

So, here are eight things that must be considered as we shut the schools and send kids home:

 

1. What happens to kids without a computer or the internet?

Not everybody is lucky enough to have digital access at home. Digital resources and video conferences will achieve little if kids can’t access them or engage fully.

 

2. What happens to kids who usually have support from a teacher’s aide?

Some children need a little extra help in the classroom to follow the curriculum and learn to the best of their ability. What’s the plan to ensure these students aren’t left behind?

 

3. How do we protect kids who experience violence at home?

It’s a sad reality, but home isn’t safe for every child. School is a refuge for some kids. How do we protect kids who may be stuck at home in an environment that is unsafe?

 

4. How do parents in ‘essential’ jobs keep working?

If children being at home means adults who are critical to the fight against Coronavirus (and efforts to cushion its impacts, such as family violence, disability support or community health workers) cannot work, then school closures may cause untold harm.

 

5. How do we support parents and carers already doing it tough?

Some families are already only just holding things together. For single parent families, foster carers and kinship carers in particular, school hours provide a chance to rest, complete chores or engage in paid work. How do we support these families and prevent burnout?

 

6. How will we feed kids who rely on a School Breakfast Club?

Thousands of Victorian kids receive a free and nutritious breakfast every school day through the Victorian Government’s School Breakfast Club program. The meals are provided because those kids often don’t get regular or healthy meals at home. How will we ensure they still get fed?

 

7. How do we look after kids’ mental health during a shutdown?

Many kids struggle with their mental health and are helped by school counsellors. These children risk losing that support, just as they’re also dealing with loneliness and anxiety associated with the wider COVID-19 pandemic. How will these kids get the mental health support they need?

 

8. How do we make sure all kids go back to school after the crisis?

Roughly 10,000 kids disengage and drop-out of school each year, jeopardizing their mental health and putting them at risk of homelessness and criminal activity. How do we make sure these kids (who are already teetering on the edge of disengagement) stay connected during the shutdown, and return to school when they reopen?

 

We hope this list highlights some of the unintended consequences that may occur as a result of school closures.

VCOSS has never said “shut the schools” or “don’t shut the schools’.

Our message is simple: if schools must close, we must look after all those kids, parents, carers and families in our community who are vulnerable, and who might suffer as a result.

 

  • To arrange an interview contact Ryan Sheales on 0418 127 153 or via email.
  • If you need a photo of Ms King, please visit the VCOSS Media Hub.