SA teachers concerned over school return

SA's government has proposed a 'hybrid' model to combine the return to school with online learning.
SA's government has proposed a 'hybrid' model to combine the return to school with online learning.

South Australian teachers remain "fearful and anxious" and unconvinced the state government can provide a COVID-19 safe working environment for students and staff when schools return.

Australian Education Union officials met with Premier Steven Marshall and Education Minister John Gardner on Tuesday amid ongoing threats of strike action on the first day of term.

Instead of the proposed 'hybrid' model where some years resume face-to-face classes from February 2 and others work online for two weeks, the union wants a two-week delay for all students to allow for better planning.

AEU state President Andrew Gohl said the union offered to put its ballot of teachers on industrial action on hold if the delay was approved, but said the premier rejected the proposal.

"The premier offers SA educators plenty of praise and thanks but these are simply platitudes if not backed up with actions that reflect respect for educators and their justifiable concerns," Mr Gohl said.

"His actions are ignoring the fears and concerns of South Australian educators who are simply asking for the detail to guide them in an Omicron learning environment."

The AEU said the meeting with the premier and education officials gave the union no comfort that the government or the education department could provide a safe working environment.

The lack of detail was a recipe for chaos and was leaving the education workforce fearful and anxious, it said.

Mr Marshall said the government appreciated the start of the school year would be disrupted.

"It was a respectful meeting, but we couldn't agree to the union's request to delay the school year by two weeks," he said.

"We believe we've got the balance right here in South Australia and we'll be proceeding with that."

Under the government's plan, influenced by the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases, schools will be open from January 31 for children of essential workers and for students considered vulnerable.

Students in reception, years 1, 7, 8 and 12 will then return on February 2 with other years resuming face-to-face learning from February 14.

Those facing the longer delay in returning to the classroom will learn online for the first two weeks of term one.

The AEU has recommended strike action on February 2, with its members having until Monday to vote to approve or reject the planned industrial campaign.

The union's concerns include a lack of planning around the use of rapid antigen tests in schools and issues with isolation rules for teachers should they become a close contact of a virus case.

Mr Marshall said the government was still working through some of those finer details.

Australian Associated Press