Teacher Lives Matter Too

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Dear Prime Minister,

As a teacher, I'm begging you, please listen.

After giving a class of sixteen-year-olds a talk about the importance of social distancing (with up-to-date information from the WHO, CDC, State and Federal Government), a kid coughed in his hand and slapped his mate in the face “as a joke”.

Another student's mother had come into contact with a positive case of COVID-19. He was sent to school and told “not to tell anyone”. Her own test hadn’t come back yet.

4-6 classes of 20+ students filter in and out of the same classroom each and every day. 100+ use the canteen. It is logistically impossible, let alone behaviourally unmanageable, to enforce the "one person per four metres" social distancing rule.

We appreciate the competing interests involved; our economy, our healthcare workers, our students. However, 30% of teachers in Australia are aged 50 and above (OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey 2018), and I work with many teachers who are over 65.

Because they are passionate and dutiful, they will not self-isolate unless directed to do so. Please direct them to do so now. They are being placed at significant risk, which is surely in violation of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012.

To give you a small idea of how we are feeling, I conducted my own survey and within a few hours, 340 teachers responded.

93.2% of teachers felt uncomfortable being at school (thirty of those said so because they were pregnant).

We can keep schools open with skeleton staff as they're doing in Norway. As a young(er) teacher myself, I would be happy to stay on-site so that our country's healthcare workers can continue to help our community.

If your modelling indeed shows that in the "best case, we'll lose 50,000 people", then please consider that some of these people will be senior teaching staff who contracted COVID-19 from school, when they otherwise would have stayed home.

Kind regards,

Alex Goodwin.