'Isolate teachers over 60.' A Victorian teacher's plea to the Australian government.


On Friday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a ban on non-essential gatherings of over 500 people in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19.

But there was one notable exception.

Schools would remain open.

Watch: Mamamia’s Claire Murphy breaks down your most asked questions about COVID-19. Post continues below. 

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Backing Morrison’s decision, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said it was “too early” to close schools, arguing that COVID-19 does not appear to be affecting children as badly as adults.

He said: “One of the interesting and positive aspects of this virus is that there have been very few reports of symptomatic infection in children. What we don’t know is whether children are getting infected but just don’t get symptoms…”

But, as Jessie Stephens wrote for Mamamia on Sunday, it’s not just about the children.

What about the teachers?

Those over the age of 60, those with chronic illnesses or immunosuppression, they are being expected to continue working, putting their health at risk.

Mamamia spoke to Suzanne*, a 64-year-old primary school teacher based in Victoria. At the school where she works, she says, there are five other teachers are over the age of 60, and two ancillary staff 60-plus. One teacher is 72 years old.

They have all had no choice but to show up to work today.

“While I am well aware that children are not being affected as badly as adults, and generally have mild symptoms, we still don’t how they are positioned as carriers,” Suzanne tells Mamamia. “I certainly feel that the older teaching generation have been forgotten about. Our risk is much higher.”


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While Suzanne understands that for some – hospitality workers, those in customer service, health care workers – working from home is impossible and the need to keep kids in school is great – she believes there has to be a more prudent solution for protecting vulnerable teachers.

“Would it not be prudent to have the higher risk groups, any teachers/child care workers who are over 60, any teacher that has a chronic illness or is immunosuppressed to be officially taken out of schools, and to self isolate or remain on a very low profile?” she suggests.

“This would mean that health care workers and other workers could still send their children to school as we wait and see what the next step will be.”

At Suzanne’s school, there are many teachers in their twenties and thirties who are at far lower risk than those over 60. There are also casual relief teachers on call.

“They could fill the gap, or if parents are self isolating their children, there may be less numbers of students at school anyway,” she says. “This could actually be an intermediate plan for many businesses. It would then not deplete the workforce and perhaps protect those of us older than 60.”

Just this morning, a primary school in Panania, NSW, closed after a person who had presented a professional development session at the school last week, tested positive for coronavirus.

Dozens of teachers who attended are now at risk. If any of them are over 60, they are far more likely to become seriously ill.

If, at this stage, we cannot feasibly remove kids from schools, the least we can do is remove those who are most vulnerable.