NSW school clusters alarm teachers

Teachers at independent schools are worried by the risk of virus transmission among older students.
Teachers at independent schools are worried by the risk of virus transmission among older students.

The union representing teachers at independent schools says staff and senior students should be wearing masks and extra-curricular activities should be curtailed as clusters in NSW schools cause concern.

It wants a review of COVID-safe protocols in non-government schools to ensure "the highest safety levels possible are achieved".

It follows a plea from NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian after NSW recorded 22 new COVID cases on Tuesday and at least 17 cases are now linked to a growing cluster at Tangara School for Girls at Cherrybrook in Sydney's northwest.

There are also cases at Batemans Bay High School, Batemans Bay public school as well as Our Lady of Mercy College at Parramatta.

"Schools, in particular, non-government schools cannot undertake those extra-curricular activities that you do outside of a pandemic and I can't make that message stronger," Ms Berejiklian said on Tuesday.

"We are in a pandemic. Every organisation, every entity needs to abide by the COVID safe plans because otherwise we risk having a surge in numbers but also we risk having new clusters and none of us want to see," she said.

The Independent Education Union of Australia said it was imperative that non-government school employers adhered to COVID-safe plans and practices.

"Extra-curricular activities should be curtailed," Branch Secretary Mark Northam said in a statement.

Teachers should not be required to expose themselves to additional risk by participating in extra-curricular activities such as sporting trips, school excursions, retreats, or other such activities, he said.

"We are now calling on the government to provide clear and decisive guidance to schools, in particular making an explicit recommendation for staff and senior students to wear masks within school settings," he said.

NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant has acknowledged it was now clear that older students posed a greater risk of transmission.

"An 18-year-old at school is more like an adult in terms of their characteristics and risks of transmission," she said.

Australian Associated Press