Raising the BARR – Week ending 24 April 2020

Community Heroes – Each and Every One of You.

It has been a wonderful community response to the calls for people to stay at home, avoid unnecessary travel and movements and if mixing with others maintain social distancing as a way to deal with the terrifying possibilities of mass deaths due to COVID-19.  The actions of the many has saved countless lives.

It is impossible to know whose life you have saved.  Perhaps it was someone in your family, or your neighbour’s family or perhaps it is someone that you will never know.  But well done everyone.

Having said that, now is not the time to give up on all of the great work done thus far.

There is no doubt that some of the restrictions that are in place for COVID-19 will gradually be relaxed in the coming weeks and months.  This is a sensible thing to do.  But for your own sake and the sake of others please do keep in mind all of the excellent energy and efforts made already.

Please do not think that we are about to go back to “life as normal” and pretend that we are no longer living with this frightening illness.  It is unknown how long the COVID risk will continue, but the general thinking is that it will be around until we come up with a vaccine.  To that end, if COVID could have killed people in January, February and March then it is obvious that it could equally be a killer in May, June, July and beyond.

So this I urge, please continue to go about your day assuming two things:  1. That you have the virus and could infect others; 2. That everyone else has the virus and could infect you.

In the coming months please make sure that you continue to social distance, repeatedly wash hands, follow all rules and restrictions about moving around and mixing with others and continue to think of yourself as a life saver.

There is Nothing Simple In The Question About our Schools

As a parent of four school aged children, there has been nothing easy about these recent weeks.  I don’t know how “home schooling” is working for others, but we are having a fair bit of trouble getting the younger kids to crack a book open while the older ones are giving it a pretty good shake.

Questions about what is safe and what is not safe have been on the minds of everyone.  This is especially true for our schools.  What risk are the kids at if they go to school?  What risk are our school staff at?  Can the kids bring home the terrible COVID disease?

So far, the answer to most of these questions has been left in the hands of parents and schools.  The trouble with this approach is that I don’t know if we will ever see a more unfair and inequitable schooling scenario in my lifetime.  Questions about access and opportunity are leaving a massive divide in the education outcomes of our kids.  That’s not to mention that for some children school might be their only meal of the day (provided by the school) and the only 6 hours of the day when they feel safe.

As a simple example of the gap in education outcomes, it is looking likely that in Term 2, Year 12 students at private schools might have 40+ days of classroom lessons, while in public schools it could be as low as 10 days.

Trying to balance the education of students with the health and well-being of our school staff and wider community is a tricky one that requires real leadership.  And the explanation needs to be simple enough so that the kids understand.

To all of our wonderful school staff, from cleaners through to Principals, thank you for all that you have done over the past 6 weeks during an incredible and instantaneous change to the way schools work.  You have reminded us all of how skilled, specialised and talented you all are.  And you have reminded us that people are entitled to go to a safe work place each day and when that’s not possible then every reasonable step needs to be put in place to make it the safest work space that it can be.