School administrators in local government areas have warned of the emerging Corona virus, Covid-19, against the decision to move forward with postponing secondary schools face-to-face, with no certainty that their schools will be able to open their doors, which could further entrench inequality in the West and Southwest. Sydney Communities.
The decision to postpone HSC exams to 9 November in order to move forward with face-to-face exams in NSW has split students, teachers and schools.
Concern is particularly growing in 12 areas of local government concern, where lockdowns have continued for longer, while some families have experienced additional Covid-19 stress within their families or their schools have been closed.
Raquel Sharett, principal of Georges River Grammar School, said it was particularly devastating for her students who were in one of the areas with high case numbers.
“I am worried that we will oblige them for another two months and after that they will still not be able to take their exams,” she said.
“There is already a feeling of being left behind in our LGAs. No one is giving clear advice and it is highly unlikely, given the level of case numbers now, that we can move forward with HSC.”
The government has said that schools will not reopen in LGAs when cases were above 50 per 100,000 residents. A number of LGAs including Canterbury-Bankstown and Cumberland have had case numbers well above this level and cases are still on the rise.
Other principals in South West and Western Sydney have also expressed grave concern about the expanding uncertainty around HSC for their students and how, given the damage and mental health issues they have already experienced, HSC can be managed fairly.
An Islamic school principal, who asked not to be named, said that despite the school’s urging, only a quarter of high school students were vaccinated due to the reluctance to vaccinate in the community.
For HSC students outside of LGA hotspots, obtaining a Pfizer dose has proven more difficult due to a lack of vaccine and fewer appointments.
On National Radio Monday morning, NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said she would continue to speak to the schools most affected by recent delays at the SEC.
“I agree it has been a turbulent year and I apologize for that,” she said.
Vaccines for students have been strongly encouraged, Mitchell said.
“Hopefully, Pfizer’s supply will increase. I continue to present arguments on behalf of the students,” she said.
She said the NSW Education Standards Authority would set a timetable for testing “hopefully in early September”.
She insisted that schools would be able to manage HSC and would ensure social distancing using outdoor spaces as well as classrooms.
12th graders’ groups on Facebook reflected the anxiety many students feel, from concerns about the uncertainty of actually going ahead with exams to missing out on an important rite of passage – schools – that usually occur after exams in November.
“There is no consensus,” said Angelo Gavriilatos, president of the NSW Teachers’ Union, which represents teachers in the public school system.
“It has already been announced how HSC will be evaluated in some areas, such as major business and performances. Whatever announcement the government makes, we expect the health and safety of students to be our top priority.”
Catholic Schools NSW chief executive and Nesa board member, Dallas McInerney, said that while the external examinations were a great compromise tool, “the degree to which it is difficult to regulate HSC written within public health orders while honestly addressing equity concerns (as it should) has risen.” Significantly “.
He said the Nissa COVID Response Committee has been in place since 2020 and will advise the government on all options.
Over the weekend, Mark Scott, former head of the Department of Education, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the University of Sydney, noted how confusing the HSC experience is for 2021 students.
But he sought to reassure students that there would be university places across the country for those who wanted them and advised them not to get hung up on getting a single Atar or on a single course because there are so many paths available in the courses.
“We are now working with Nesa and will make Atar adaptations that better recognize the unique challenges that 2021 students have faced. We also have a blueprint for students who have experienced financial hardship, live in areas of socioeconomic disadvantage or in rural and regional areas.
Barney Glover, organizer of the Vice Chancellors Committee, also emphasized that there are many pathways in the university and students should just focus on doing their best.
Professor Jenny Hudson, from the Black Dog Institute at the University of New South Wales, said continued uncertainty about HSC would add to the pressure on young people.
We know that stress increases in the last year of school. Continuing to change will add to this stress. “We need to get rid of the uncertainty,” she said.
While the advice for HSC students is to work consistently, Hudson said not all students approach exams in this way and some people need to work on a schedule and the change has been very inconvenient.
Hudson said evidence-based care was needed especially for HSC students to ensure their mental health. She said there will likely be a big jump in disability provision requests in 2021.