School year cut short for teachers’ pandemic leave
The Queensland school year will be cut short in a frantic bid to give teachers long-promised pandemic leave in a move that has left parents fuming.
Education Queensland yesterday announced that schools would close two days earlier this year, with the final Thursday and Friday of the term declared student-free days.
This means the state's metropolitan schools will finish the year on Wednesday, December 9, while regional, rural and remote schools will finish one week earlier on Wednesday, December 2.
It is understood that schools across the state will be closed to all staff on both days - unlike typical student-free days when teachers are required to be present.
The additional two days of leave was promised to teachers in late July after the State Government controversially deferred a 2.5 per cent pay rise for public servants until 2022.
The pay rise was scheduled to come into effect in this year, meaning the two-year delay effectively resulted in a 5 per cent salary cut for teachers and other affected professions.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk previously rejected claims that the additional leave was concession for the wage deferral, saying it was simply "pandemic leave".
Education Queensland maintained that stance yesterday, saying the student-free days were added "in recognition of the outstanding efforts of school staff during the COVID-19 pandemic", in a social media announcement.
However, some teachers, parents and frontline workers failed to see the benefit, with a state government social media post declaring the changes flooded with criticism.
"We still have to get everything done in the term … with two less days to do it. Actually adds to our stress load rather than rewards us," one frustrated commenter said.
Some parents also questioned the reasons for reducing learning time in an already heavily impacted schooling year, with one saying, "the children have already missed out on enough this year".
Others questioned the impact the shortened semester would have on frontline-working parents.
"And what do you suppose essential workers do with their children on these days?" one commenter questioned. "We also faced up to work during the pandemic and are now disadvantaged. Have to take time off right at a busy period and right before six weeks of holidays that we don't get either."
Education Minister Grace Grace previously called the extra leave a "big thankyou" for teachers' efforts.
"We want to make sure that we recognise the extraordinary efforts of teachers and principals. And we as a government make no apologies for that," she said.