26 September 2023

Unvaccinated staff to head back to school

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Department of Education staff may no longer need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to work under a new policy proposed by the Department.

Secretary of the Department, Georgina Harrisson said the new policy and planned position followed a comprehensive independent workplace risk assessment.

“The new position would mean an additional 965 ‘active’ casual staff could return to working at school sites and teaching staff who resigned or were terminated for not complying with the vaccine mandate could apply for advertised roles if they chose to do so next term,” Ms Harrisson said.

However, she said the removal of the vaccine mandate would have little impact on the current staffing stress the sector was experiencing due to a 30 per cent increase in the rate of sick leave among teaching staff in the first six months of the year (compared with last year).

“In the first six months of this year (to June 20) there were 430,351 teacher sick days recorded, up 145,491 compared to the same period in 2019 (pre-pandemic) and up 100,324 compared to the same period last year,” Ms Harrisson said.

“This shows the impact that COVID and major winter illnesses are having on teacher sick leave,” she said.

“Under the proposed policy, from Monday, July 18, unvaccinated corporate staff will be able to return to corporate offices; schools can reengage unvaccinated or unattested active casual staff on a temporary or casual basis and unvaccinated staff who resigned or were dismissed will be able to reapply for advertised positions with the Department.”

Ms Harrisson said the Department took the necessary time in coming to the new position to ensure the safety and wellbeing of staff and students would not be compromised.

“As we move into Term 3, parents can be reassured that schools will remain safe places for their children and that face-to-face learning will be maintained,” the Secretary said.

“It is also important to recognise the vital role our teachers and school staff played last year, getting jabs in arms, so we could get our students back into classrooms in the middle of the Delta wave.”

She said staff who worked in Schools for Specific Purposes or support units and classes would still be required to maintain up-to-date doses of COVID-19 vaccine under the proposed policy, as would Assisted Travel Support Officers and drivers.

Ms Harrisson said that following stakeholder consultation, the finalisation of the formal policy was expected in a fortnight (by 10 July).

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