Australian News

Border closure decision hated by 20 million Aussies

Of all the rules that Australia’s states and territories have introduced since the COVID-19 pandemic struck seven months ago, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s hard border closure has been one of the most contentious.

From breakfast television hosts and Prime Minister Scott Morrison to Ms Palaszczuk’s NSW counterpart Gladys Berejiklian, a barrage of criticism has been flung at the Sunshine State’s call to keep its southern neighbours locked out for the better part of 2020.

Ms Palaszczuk, who will seek her third term as Premier on October 31, has been dubbed the “Queensland version of Donald Trump … building the wall keeping all of the Mexicans out from down south”, destroying jobs and the economy by maintaining her “silly” and “cruel” stance.

“It’s not evidence-based. It’s simply I think off the back of her election. She wants to look tough for Queensland residents,” NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said earlier this month.

“If she keeps this up and we don’t have a vaccine, we don’t have a treatment, this could go on for years. This is a silly game you shouldn’t be playing. She’s playing with people’s lives.”

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Despite the rest of Australia hating the rule, Queenslanders have come out in support of the closure – which won’t be going anywhere, even if Ms Palaszczuk isn’t re-elected.

The latest Newspoll, conducted for The Australianin mid-September, found that 53 per cent of voters found the border controls “about right” – compared with 37 per cent, who said the restrictions were “too strict”.

Under the rule, Queensland won’t reopen to NSW or Victoria until the states have gone 28 days straight without any cases of community transmission.

When asked last week if she thought that was “achievable”, Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said her party would follow the health advice.

“The health advice is that it is 28 days … we accept that advice,” Ms Frecklington told reporters in Townsville.

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However, Ms Frecklington said while she accepts the guideline, her stance on the borders was different.

“I have always said it can’t be set and forget … I’ve always said that borders shouldn’t be closed for a day longer than they need to be,” she said.

“But that is current health advice and we accept that.”

She chimed in on Mr Hazzard’s calls that Ms Palaszczuk was “playing politics with the border and playing politics with the pandemic”.

“With me as premier, you would have a premier that would make decisions with compassion, consistency and common sense,” she said.

The PM said yesterday that while Ms Palaszczuk’s hard border closure had decimated Queensland’s tourism and hospitality industries, Ms Frecklington “has a plan to get Queenslanders working again”.

“The real difference I think is whether someone’s actually got a plan to get Queenslanders back into jobs,” he told reporters.

“(Deb has) thought very carefully about the way that Queensland can grow back out of this COVID-19 recession.”

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Queensland was pegged to at last reopen to NSW on November 1 – the day after the election – but a growing number of cases of community transmission in the latter state could throw the decision into jeopardy.

The Courier Mailreports that the chief health officer Dr Jeanette Young will make the call the week before the slated reopening, based on the latest information.

Dr Young told reporters last Friday that while NSW had made “extremely good” progress in tracing the latest clusters, “we need to wait a bit longer (to decide) whether or not we need to change the plan to open to NSW. At the moment, it’s planned for November 1.”

“We will continue to monitor … although they are finding the contacts … they are getting continuing cases. So we will have to watch and see what happens,” she said.

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I hated remote teaching during the Covid-19 lockdown. It should never replace the classroom | Amra Pajalic | Opinion

One of my teaching colleagues returned to school recently to discover a student who hadn’t submitted any work this term due to not logging in and engaging with the lessons. It’s students like this who have suffered during remote teaching. In one week in the classroom, this student has since completed seven weeks of missing work because of his teacher’s daily support and encouragement. He is once again on track to pass the semester.

In staff rooms my colleagues and I discuss the future of teaching and whether, as the coronavirus lockdowns ease, there will be more of a push to teach remotely. This is not just a fear for teachers concerned for their long-term prospects, but something that is being discussed as a potentially positive move.

But we should keep in mind how varied the experiences of students have been during this period.

It is true that some students thrived under remote teaching. These are the students who are highly self-motivated, highly literate and are working above the standard in the classroom. They are the students who require extension and enrichment as they lightly hopscotch through the curriculum.

Learning from home has also been a positive for some students with social anxiety, who were given a reprieve from the struggles of managing multiple interactions in a day and dealing with fraught exchanges with peers. There are also the individual needs students who are also requiring individualised support based on their academic and social skills. These students too might be happy to be at home completing basic literacy and numeracy skills.

The students who generally work at a standard level are a mixed bag. These students all overwhelmingly wanted to return to school either because of the challenges of remote learning or because they miss the social interactions with their peers. This group should have been able to manage remote learning due to their basic literacy, however they have different points of need. Some of them are able to manage the work after an explanation, some of them struggle and remain mute, suffering in silence and the errors only became apparent when their work was submitted for assessment.

In the classroom these students are more easily supported because I can see from their notebooks as I walk around the classroom who is struggling, or the students themselves would be able to understand the task requirements because they had multiple opportunities for instruction through my modelling and then by viewing the notebooks of their desk mates. In individual digital silos, they lost so much support.

Then there are the students who have poor organisation and work skills. They require a teacher’s constant reminders and face-to-face interactions in order to complete the work they need to pass the subject.

We make the assumption that young people are literate with technology because of their interaction with various platforms and social media, however their basic digital literacy is quite poor when it comes to downloading files, naming files, accessing files from Google Drives or school platforms, saving and uploading files, inserting photos or other media, using formatting functions such as changing the colour of fonts or highlighting. There is the need to provide multiple explanations and demonstrations constantly.

The students who work at lower levels are the ones eager to return to school and who have found remote learning difficult.

Some of these students have been identified as below standard and have been placed on modified programs. Others have low ability due to concentration and their inability to process multiple instructions at once and need a slow, step-by-step instructional model, which remote teaching does not lend itself to. Flicking up and down a digital document disrupts their ability to process the learning task and they get lost and frustrated.

These students are the ones who are already at risk of falling through the cracks in the classroom and are exposed to many intervention strategies, learning programs and engagement programs in order to support them. They succeed because of the school environment that supports them and the relationships they develop with their teachers, and when this is removed from the equation through the digital learning environment they flail and sink.

Now that I have been remote teaching for seven weeks I know one unequivocal and indisputable truth: remote teaching can never replace the face-to-face model for secondary students. These students need schools in order to succeed and develop their academic and interpersonal skills for life.

And I also know that I hate remote teaching. Remote teaching was all of the bad parts of the job – the corrections, the administration follow-up, creating digital lessons that weren’t executed due to internet issues – with none of the good – the feeling of satisfaction when a lesson was executed well, helping a student with a problem, and the look on my students’ faces when they achieve an outcome.

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