Why children in one state are going back to school one day per week

NSW school students are set to be back in classrooms next month but only for one day a week amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters on Tuesday students will return to class on May 11 but that will increase as the weeks go by.

She hopes by term three everyone will be in class five days a week.

NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell added it’s hoped “a quarter” of students from each grade will be on campus each day.

"But how they break that group up will be a matter for them,” she said.

The announcement comes as NSW reported six more confirmed cases of coronavirus on Tuesday bringing the state’s total to 2,969.

NSW Health has explained the plan as a “phased approach”.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian speaks to the media during a press conference in Sydney.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announces students will head back to school on May 11. Source: AAP

The phased approach to NSW schooling during COVID-19

The phased approach is broken down into four phases – beginning with zero where schools remain open when term two begins on Monday, but only for those who need it.

Phase one is one day a week from May 11, phase two is two days and so forth.

School children crossing the road safely at the cross walk.
NSW schools will adopt a 'phased approach' to getting kids back in classrooms. Source: Getty Images (file pic)

Phases three and four see students back for five days per week but three involves social distancing.

It’s only at phase four that students won’t have to social distance.

  • Phase 0: Schools are open only for families who need it

  • Phase 1: Students at school at least one day per week.

  • Phase 2: Students at school at least two days per week.

  • Phase 3: Students at school five days per week, with social distancing measures

  • Phase 4: Students at school five days per week, with full school activities

“A phased approach allows school communities to balance the varied needs of students and staff, their families, personal circumstances and workplaces during the pandemic,” NSW Health said.

"The plan is phased, and flexible, allowing us to slowly bring schools back to normal while responding quickly to new spikes in transmission if they occur."

Rate of infection for children is low

Professor Paul Arbon, director of the disaster management research facility Torrens Resilience Institute in Adelaide, told Yahoo News Australia the phased approach is designed to reduce the risk of infection.

However, Professor Arbon said it “seems odd” as to why health authorities in the state didn’t either keep schools shut or choose to open them completely.

“I’m not an educator but in terms of managing the risk it’s probably a bit too cautious,” Professor Arbon said.

“I don’t think it’s particularly sound, but this would have been done with a proper risk assessment.

“We know the rate of infection from children is really low too – if a child has the virus it’s likely they’ve gotten it from a parent.”

Donna Eddy helps her son Phoenix with school work at their home in Sydney, Australia.
Donna Eddy helps her son Phoenix with his school work in their Sydney home. Source: Getty Images

Why NSW is taking a cautious approach to schools

However, Professor Arbon added if any state would be “the most cautious” in its approach “it’d be NSW”.

“Given NSW has a denser population I can understand why they’d be cautious about lifting the lid,” he said.

“One day is an interesting number though.”

Term two begins next week for NSW schools.

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