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27 August, 2021
Lockdown Update
When will it end?

At our meeting, parents told us very clearly that the current situation is difficult and that most people's focus at the moment is on the wellbeing of their family.

We have compiled some wellbeing resources.

You also told us very clearly that it would be more difficult as time went on, and that families need as much warning as possible about either returning to school or an extension of lockdown and Home Learning. We have been able to speak to the Minister's office about this need for communications as far in advance as possible.
Home learning

Well - that's week one of Home Learning done!
We hope it went as well as possible in your house. If you have ongoing questions, issues or frustrations with the way that Home Learning is being delivered by your school, please do let us know.

We'd also like to hear what's working well with home learning so that we can spread the good practices! Email, us or comment on this Facebook post.

Home learning info

The Education Directorate's teacher-led Home Learning page includes video and FAQ.

About assessment and reporting during home learning.
Year 11 & 12

It's a particularly worrying time for College students. The Board of Senior Secondary Studies has information for students and parents, including FAQ. And the Education Directorate has released this article.

Note the change to the date for the AST (scaling test) now scheduled for October 12 and 13.

Contact us with your specific concerns.
Council activities
General Meeting

P&C Council General Meeting 24 August breaks records

Sixty four 64 people representing 41 schools and colleges participated in Tuesday night’s General Meeting, which was centred on COVID issues. This is the largest such meeting in 11 years and shows the extent of parent concern about schooling in the current out break of the Delta strain of COVID. Issues discussed included:
  • Home learning and supporting parents with online learning
  • COVID management for school clusters and community
  • P&C businesses as employer & business solvency
  • Canteens management and survival
  • Out of Hours School Care services management
There's a summary of the General Meeting.
Working for members

Our office team and volunteers have been working hard to assist members and advocate for parents:
  • Working with P&Cs providing canteen and OSHC services to review their options
  • Advocating for changes to Government settings to ensure future canteen viability
  • Speaking to Government about a range of issues including quarantine for affected school communities, home learning, an
  • Hosting 2 online sessions on home learning for parents of kids with complex needs
  • Asking the ACT Chief Health Officer and Ministers to review the current vaccination schedule to ensure the schedule is appropriate to address the outbreak of the delta strain of COVID, with relation to schools 
In the coming weeks we will be working to gather parent feedback as broadly as possible on the current situation, continue to advocate for improvements to Home Learning and keep our P&Cs up to date.
Know someone starting preschool or kindy in 2022?

Prepare for a smooth transition to school with this online Parent Forum, run jointly by Council and the Education Directorate.

It's on September 16, 7.00 - 8.00 pm. Hear from teachers, parents and researchers about the things you can do to ensure a great start to your child's education journey. 

Find out more and register.
Early Learning Committee Minutes

At the last meeting the committee discussed 
  • Early Learning Parent Representatives and approaches to engaging the early learning community,  
  • the report from the preschool OSH trials, and  
  • parent polls and surveys    
Access the minutes here
Register for the next ELC meeting
P&C operations

We are continually updating our information for P&Cs on our COVID Information Page, including assistance available and current regulations. 

Please check the page as needed, or contact us if there is other information you need.

It's important that P&Cs consider their solvency if their financial situation has changed due to the lockdown. Insolvency is when a company or person can't pay debts when they are due. ​It is difficult to determine whether an organisation is insolvent just by looking at financial records or accounts. The ability to raise funds, collect monies owed and sell assets are all considered. ​All office holders have a responsibility to prevent insolvent trading by the Association, including not incurring a debt that will cause insolvency. Find out more here.

P&Cs employing permanent or part time staff in businesses that are not currently operating, or operating at significantly below capacity, should review your financial position and know the time frame over which you can continue to operate.  If you are worried, we recommend you seek professional advice immediately from your accountant or auditor.
There are a number of possible actions: 
  • government grants and assistance​
  • calling in debts or fees ​
  • reduce expenses and liabilities (likely to be closing the service) ​
  • seeking financial assistance from the community, including fundraising
  • negotiating a payment plan with creditors 
If your P&C employs staff


Casual Employees

If you employ your staff on a casual basis, you can reduce their hours in the current situation, to zero, without pay. Obviously, this will be hard on staff, but most will be eligible for Federal Government assistance - see below.

Permanent staff

Can you stand-down staff?

Usually, if you ask a full-time or part-time employee not to work, they would be entitled to be paid.  But under the Fair Work Act 2009, Employers can stand down employees without pay if there is a stoppage of work, which the employer cannot be reasonably held responsible for, and the employee cannot be usefully employed.

However, for school canteens, it is not clear whether this condition is met by the current circumstances.  As the Fair Work website makes clear, a downturn in business conditions does not justify unpaid stand-down. If the business is directed to close by a Government Directive in response to COVID, staff may be stood down without pay, but the ACT Government's current decision is to allow canteens and OSHC services to remain open.
We recognise that this is a confusing and stressful situation, and invite affected P&Cs to contact us by email and we can call you to discuss. While Council cannot offer legal advice, we can discuss options. You may also wish to seek legal advice for your P&C. This article is also an excellent explainer (including quotes from legal experts).

We have received some further advice on this in relation to canteens which we will email to P&Cs running canteens.

Before standing down

The Fair Work Ombudsman points our that before standing down an employee, employers should consider all other options, including work from home, change of duties, and taking some types of paid leave (including at half pay).
An employer should discuss and communicate any decisions they make about implementing a stand down with their employees. 

Standing down - the process

Its best practice to notify affected employees in writing if you are standing them down. Fair Work has a Template letter for standing down employees. It includes steps to consider before standing down employees, as well as a letter template for notifying an employee that they are being stood down under the Fair Work Act provisions.

Federal Government assistance for affected workers

Workers who have lost hours and income may be eligible for the Federal Government's COVID-19 disaster payment.  Payments are available for full-time, part-time and casual staff who have lost hours of work due to a lockdown.
ACT Business assistance

Some P&Cs will be eligible for these government supports. We are on the look out for additional supports and will let you know.

The COVID-19 Business Support Grants provide up to $10,000 over the three-week lockdown period if your turnover has declined by 30 per cent or more. To be eligible your P&C must have an ABN, an annual turnover of more than $75,000 and be registered for GST. 

The COVID-19 Small Business Hardship Scheme allows businesses to apply for credits for payroll tax, utility charges, rates and other selected fees and charges up to a maximum of $10,000 per operator. 
Useful bits
Family-friendly films

Continued lockdowns across Australia have prompted the Australian Council on Children and the Media [ACCM] to compile a list of 50 family-friendly films which promote happy, healthy screen media experiences for children.
Museum from home

The National Museum is closed, but has things to do in COVID lockdown, at home or anywhere you like in their Museum from Home.
Schools sustainability awards

Nominations are now open for the 2021 Actsmart Schools Sustainability Awards to celebrate excellence in sustainable management in waste and recycling, energy, water, biodiversity, transport and actions to address sustainability in the curriculum.

The Awards are an opportunity for your school to recognise and celebrate contributions made by students, teachers or staff and environment teams.

Parents with lived experience

The University of Melbourne is developing new guidelines on how to provide mental health first aid to children and are looking for input from parents/carers who have experience caring for a child aged 5-12 years with a mental health problem while in primary school
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Comment authorised by Terry L Sanders for the ACT Council of Parents & Citizens Associations

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