Boarding and outdoor education staff need urgent clarity from government
IEU members employed in boarding houses and outdoor education centres attached to schools continue to face uncertainty.
A number of our members working in these areas remain stood down from working in gymnasiums, swimming pools and boarding houses, many of which remain closed to students due to COVID-19 restrictions.
IEUA-QNT Assistant Secretary/ Treasurer Paul Giles said our union is seeking urgent advice from the federal government as to when and how boarding houses will be able to reopen fully as well as when outdoor education centres can be utilised by students.
“We need the federal government to provide immediate advice and definitive dates as to when boarding houses can fully open,” Paul said.
“At this stage, AHPPC is still considering boarding house advice with the expectation generally regarding students’ return, although they have provided no definitive timeline,” he said.
Current restrictions on boarding and outdoor education
Current AHPCC guidelines advise each boarding student should be allocated an individual bedroom and bathroom, which is not feasible or practical for many boarding houses.
For dormitory-style boarding accommodation, occupancy must be reduced to just 25% of its usual capacity.
Also contributing to the decline on boarder numbers are the international students who are stranded overseas and unable to return to their schools in Australia as well as many First Nations students who cannot leave their local communities.
Swimming pools at schools are open and can be used, but capacity is restricted to one class at a time.
The heavy reductions in boarding students and decreased use of swimming pools and gyms is being used by some employers as justification for stand downs.
However, our members who have been stood down are desperate to return to paid work and our union argues stood-down staff should be redeployed to alternative duties.
Employers must redeploy staff who are stood down
Paul said there is no shortage of work to be done and schools should be exploring how these staff can be utilised in other areas of school, given the phased return of students to classrooms is underway.
“Boarding and outdoor education staff can assist with student supervision arrangements during school breaks or before and after school,” Paul said.
“They can help support those students who are still engaged in remote learning but attending school sites.
“Outdoor education staff can continue to undertake maintenance tasks or review and update programs and equipment.
“Furthermore, boarding staff can undertake student and family liaison tasks, pastoral care programs and learning support for their boarding students who are learning remotely,” he said.
Clarity from government needed urgently
With today’s Queensland government announcement that all students will return to on-site schooling from 25 May 2020, boarding schools need certainty from government and employers as well as a clear roadmap for the ongoing viability of school boarding facilities.
The state and federal governments must provide clear advice as to the operational requirements that will apply to boarding facilities for the remainder of Term 2 and leading into Term 3.
Questions remain unanswered as to when and how interstate boarders will return, the challenges faced by First Nations boarders returning from remote locations and what measures are required to facilitate the safe return of overseas boarders.
“Viable and workable supervision and attendance arrangements are needed in boarding schools that balance the protection of staff and student safety whilst protecting our members’ job security and wage certainty,” Paul said.
Any boarding staff or outdoor education staff affected by stand downs or reduced hours should contact our union immediately.