NSW Department of Education monitors online learning engagement

Students being marked absent for not engaging with online learning

NSW school students who are not sufficiently engaging with their online learning materials while at home are being marked as being absent.

An message sent to parents at a South Coast NSW school this week said teachers were monitoring student progress on a regular basis and were 'marking class roles for anyone who hasn't been accessing their learning as an unexplained absence'.

"This has been advised by our Department of Education deputy secretary," the email said.

On March 22, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian encouraged parents to keep their children at home with many parents balancing work commitments and homeschooling.

Details of how many students have been marked absent in the past month are not available, however, the department told parents "We are very impressed with how well everyone is accessing learning tasks."

A spokesman said the pandemic had created an 'unprecedented challenge', which required schools to find new ways to provide continuity of learning.

The department's learning hub allows students, teachers and parents to access their learning materials.

"Students are covering the same learning activities regardless of whether they learn from home or attend school," he said.

"All students are expected to complete learning activities set by their teacher. Student attendance will be marked based on the student's engagement in their learning from home work."

Public schools have remained open throughout the pandemic, however, attendance rates in NSW and Victoria are at about 20 per cent.

They are expected to rise steadily after Easter if the virus curve continues to flatten and parents are convinced that the school environment is safe for their children.

While some students are expected to need additional support to compensate for disrupted learning, but students will not be required to repeat or complete a "year 13".

Under current arrangements Victorian students are due to return to school on April 14 and NSW students are due to return on April 27.

Thursday's national cabinet meeting focused on how to create a coherent national approach for reopening schools after Easter holidays.

A staged reopening of schools in addition to how to best cater for the needs of Year 12 students was among the issues discussed.

"We do think schools need to be made safe, and the national cabinet has asked us to come back later this week with some detailed advice on how to make schools safe, in terms of hygiene measures, reducing gatherings, practising where possible social distancing, cleaning playground equipment," Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said ahead of the meeting

While the majority of private schools have retained skeleton staffing to cater for the children of essential services workers, some have closed.

In a letter sent to bodies representing independent schools on Thursday, Education Minister Dan Tehan said the schools must provide an option for children who could not stay at home amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The letter also highlights the fact that schools' funding is contingent upon them being open for students who need to attend.

Brendan Murphy

Brendan Murphy

"We want all schools to be offering that learning environment for those parents who have to work, and for those children where it's safer to be in the classroom," Mr Tehan said.

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This story Students being marked absent for not engaging with online learning first appeared on The Canberra Times.