Elite schools protest ‘extreme student hardships’
ELITE schools are ramping up pressure on the Queensland Premier to let thousands of boarding school students return to classes in term three, after some have been home schooled for 13 weeks.
The Isolated Children's Parents' Association (ICPA) has been strongly advocating the Premier intervenes in the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) guidelines, which have not changed since the beginning of May, citing the conditions are disadvantaging rural and remote students.
The restrictions limit the amount of boarders in facilities, in some cases to 25 per cent, and require the use of shared bathrooms, staggering dining times and reducing home visits.
However, it's understood any revised protocols are dependent on the National Cabinet.
The Gold Coast's St Hilda's School yesterday echoed the calls on Ms Annastacia Palaszczuk to allow remote and rural students to go back to class.
"We ask that the Queensland Government and relevant authorities reconsider the current boarding guidelines as a matter of urgency. Our Boarders' futures must be acknowledged," a school statement online said.
Fairholme College issued a public statement saying there was "enduring silence from the government" with boarding families still "adrift" without clear direction about term three.
And Rockhampton Girls Grammar yesterday said it would welcome a review of the AHPPC guidelines and hoped for limitations to ease to reflect the relaxation of restrictions across the general community.
ICPA president Tammie Irons said they would be hosting a virtual protest today, in light of the "extreme disproportionate hardship" on the children.
"We're reaching the end of our ropes, with a lot of the announcements with stadiums being able to open by this weekend, theme parks opening, and we still have not had one attempt to contact us and let us know what is going on," she said.
St Ursula's College in Yeppoon backed the ICPA's campaign, with 30 per cent of their students unable to re-join their peers.
In a statement supporting the calls, The Southport School said 133 boys have not been able to return while 190 have, due to restrictions on dormitory capacity.
"The risk of infection and the possible need to put students into isolation in the event of a positive case is now being outweighed significantly by the loss of effective academic learning, and the associated social isolation from peers," a statement said.
Stuartholme principal Kristen Sharpe said the school has submitted a risk management plan to its local public health unit, and believed it could allow just 50 per cent in the boarding house.
She said rural students deserved the same access to quality education as the metro students, with those still at home struggling to feel connected.
A Brisbane Boys College statement said it was the schools' "fervent wish" that the issue was resolved in the best interests of rural and regional boarders by the end of this term to allow every student back on campus.
St Joseph's Nudgee College Principal Mr Peter Fullagar said the current restrictions placed on boarding facilities have greatly impacted students, with 100 boarders unable to return so far.
Only half of St Margaret's Anglican Girls School's 180 boarders can return, with principal Ros Curtis believing current restrictions should be reconsidered with pupils' return vital to their academic and social wellbeing.
"Current restrictions seem very inconsistent, for example, boarders have had to social distance in common rooms after school but have been mixing with the same girls in a classroom all day without social distancing," she said.
A Queensland Health spokesperson said they understood it was a complicated time for many but it was essential they balance the lifting of restrictions while keeping everyone safe in the pandemic.
The statement said Queensland Health provided guidance to boarding schools to assist their risk management plans that could allow for more than 25 per cent of students to return.
It is up to schools to work with local Public Health Units on the development of these plans.
Originally published as Elite schools protest 'extreme student hardships'