State hires sleuths to investigate anti-vax teachers

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Ms Cachia said the department runs a “very large” number of investigations each year on other issues, such as complaints against principals and teachers, and did not want those investigations to be interrupted.

From Monday, COVID-19 restrictions will also be eased slightly at schools, with assemblies and presentations allowed outdoors, day excursions and sport permitted, although music ensembles are only allowed for those wearing masks.

Community use of school sites can go ahead from November 8, while fully vaccinated volunteers will be allowed on site to help with the canteen or uniform shop.

The 19,000 air purifiers ordered by the department to help with ventilation have arrived, and 2000 have been installed in schools. “We don’t have plans to purchase any more,” said the chief executive of School Infrastructure NSW, Anthony Manning.

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Meanwhile, new figures show 960 suspensions were handed out to kindergarten kids last year, which was down from 1252 in 2018.

Of the 63,604 suspensions across the whole public school system, more than half had a disability and 29 per cent were Indigenous – a significant over-representation of both groups. Just 10 per cent came from a background other than English, an under-representation.

Education Minister Sarah Mitchell announced a new behaviour policy in August last year. It also included cutting the maximum school suspension for all students from 20 to 10 days, which upset many teachers who felt some situations required longer suspensions.

“Starting down a trajectory of suspension, very clearly there’s a lot of international evidence … about what that means for life outcomes and for a range of measures,” Ms Mitchell said. “Which is why we want to have this new strategy in place to support our students and staff.”

When upper house MP Courtney Houssos pointed out that the policy – announced more than a year ago but not yet finalised – was widely criticised by the NSW Teachers Federation and principals groups, Georgina Harrisson, the department’s secretary, said it had been working with the federation to reach agreement.

“We’re asking [teachers] to make a specific and difficult change, some of our teachers have used suspension,” she said. “But when it comes to it, we want to put the interests of our students first.”

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