Boarding schools problematic as COVID-19 pandemic continues
Boarding schools are emerging as one of the most problematic areas in terms of threatened stand downs and cuts to hours for school officers and services staff members.
Due to the significant drop in numbers of boarding students present in boarding houses, a number of schools have threatened to stand down boarding house staff, however continued government funding and increase in potential roles elsewhere, mean these staff should be redeployed by schools.
Changes to ABSTUDY and AIC policy
Our union’s support of a campaign for the maintenance of all ABSTUDY and Assistance for Isolated Children (AIC) was successful and the government funding was confirmed last week.
The government has advised boarding providers to temporary changes to ABSTUDY and AIC policy for the duration of Term 2 and intention to review if needed for Term 3.
These were made to support the boarding sector in maintaining the continuity of education to boarding students, including protecting students’ boarding places so that they can return as soon as they are able.
This provides important funding certainty to many schools.
Under the new temporary arrangements, boarding students who qualified for ABSTUDY or AIC boarding payment in Term 1 2020 will continue to qualify for payments in Term 2, provided they maintain their Term 1 boarding arrangements.
The funding will continue to be made as close to the scheduled time as possible based on the current enrolment information held by Services Australia.
The government also committed to continue ABSTUDY School Fees Allowance (Group 2) for Term 2 for tuition fees while schools continue to teach remotely.
Alternative duties for boarding house staff
Our union believes boarding house staff can be re-deployed to help with school operations for the duration of the remote-learning period and will fight to keep members appropriately employed.
The government has advised boarding providers that a condition of continued ABSTUDY and AIC payments is to remain in contact with students and continue to provide educational support and pastoral care – roles boarding house staff a particularly suited to.
IEUA-QNT Assistant Secretary Brad Hayes said that school employers can do the right thing to avoid stand downs.
"As an example, the Cairns Diocese has announced the continued full employment for all their boarding staff despite the fact all of their boarding facilities are currently closed," Brad said.
Another Brisbane-based school has informed our union that boarding house staff will be redeployed to supervise students on-site where needed, for administration support work and pastoral care for day and boarding students.
Any boarding staff notified of a potential stand down should contact our union immediately.