Boarding guidelines need urgent revision

11 June 2020

The Queensland Catholic Education Commission is calling for updated advice on COVID-19 restrictions for boarding school accommodation to be completed urgently.

QCEC Executive Director Dr Lee-Anne Perry said there were still more than 1,000 boarding students who have not been able to return to their Queensland Catholic schools because of current restrictions issued by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC).

The guidelines require boarding schools to keep dormitory-style accommodation at 25 per cent occupancy.

Dr Perry said while some boarding schools had other forms of accommodation that allowed boarders to return, many were forced to limit the number of boarders they could accept.

“The release of this updated  AHPPC guideline, which has been ongoing for several weeks, is taking far too long and disadvantaging a significant number of students who are forced to remain learning at home, often in very remote locations and with poor internet connectivity,” Dr Perry said.

“I have written to the Premier asking her to intervene with the AHPPC and speed up this review and I have welcomed an indication of support from her office.

“The guidelines may have been appropriate in the early stages of the pandemic but at this point, with very low active case numbers in Queensland, they require urgent updating which the AHPPC has acknowledged.

“With Term 2 all but complete and schools needing to plan for Term 3, this work needs to be finalised as soon as possible.”

Dr Perry said there was still no certainty that all boarding students in the impacted schools would be able to return to school in Term 3.

“It’s a matter of equity for these students whose peers have been back in the classroom for weeks now with all the benefits of face to face learning, with their routines back in place and with regular social interaction with friends .”

Dr Perry said boarders who remained at home were being well supported by their schools with a range of learning at home options and pastoral care, but it seemed they had been forgotten by the AHPPC.

“Our schools have been well supported by Queensland authorities, but we need action from the AHPPC and national Cabinet to finalise this significant work.”

“We are looking to the AHPPC to urgently release the updated guidelines that allow boarding schools to manage their sites so more students could return to face-to-face learning.

“We’ve seen guidelines relaxed for a variety of sport and entertainment undertakings and it’s time to focus on the needs of boarding students and ensure they can return to the classroom,” Dr Perry said.