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A Post Primary Teachers’ Association branch chairwoman, regional secretary and long-serving Dunedin teacher has lambasted the Ministry of Education for leaving teachers at ‘‘the front line’’ without any way to protect themselves amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nancy Kay, in a widely circulated letter, said the ministerial approach to handling the emerging situation was ‘‘deeply concerning’’.
She said in the ministry’s role as ‘‘a good employer’’, it had a responsibility to meet the health and safety needs of all of its employees.
‘‘Teachers are being left at the front line without any way to protect themselves.
‘‘This would result in teachers being exposed to more contagious cases, and greater rates of direct exposure to infection than even health workers.
‘‘The significant difference for those at schools is, that there is no recognition, discussion or steps to protect us, by our employers.’’
Ms Kay believed closing schools ‘‘for a few days’’ once a pupil was reported as infectious, was ‘‘ridiculous at worst and a poor strategy at best’’.
She also said not all teachers were created equal.
The sector had a workforce with significant numbers in the 60-plus age bracket.
‘‘Many face double jeopardy, having developed, by this age, heart problems, receiving treatment through immunity suppressant medication, asthma and breathing problems.’’
She said the ministry had not offered any alternatives for the employees at greatest risk.
She urged those in positions of responsibility, to consider closing their school for a minimum of two weeks, if any member of the community tested positive for Covid-19, and had made contact with any member of the school — regardless of where and how contact was made.
She also urged all teachers who were at greater risk, be given the opportunity now, to self-isolate, with full sick pay that was not counted against their usual sick pay entitlement.
The Ministry of Education was unable to respond to the comments yesterday.