The success of the Rapid Antigen Testing Monitoring Program hinges on overcoming the logistical challenges of distributing the tests to students and ensuring that they are actually used at home, with the results being leveraged appropriately. Schools will need support to engage families, with clear communication strategies tailored to different languages and cultural backgrounds.
On the operational side of the school, the looming threat of staff shortages is likely to be the biggest headache for school leaders. New guidelines that allow teachers to continue working if they are in close contact, provided they are asymptomatic and return a negative rapid antigen test daily, should make a big difference, while keeping the risks quite low.
Government guidelines for schools that provide for staffing alternatives, including combining classes and using a pool of retired teachers and other support staff, will also help. But school is likely to be different for many children, and many staff will be asked to work outside of their comfort zone.
It’s not the smooth start to the first quarter that we were all hoping for, and it might be tempting to wonder if it’s worth it. We think the answer is clearly yes. Victorian children have already suffered huge disruptions in their schooling. They deserve every chance to have the best start to 2022 we can offer.
We should all do our part to make this possible.
Dr. Jordana Hunter is director of the education program at the Grattan Institute. Dr. Stephen Duckett is director of the health program at the Grattan Institute.