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22 September 2021
The entire September 22, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!
By SARAH MATTHEWS
A Horsham mother-of-three and youth chaplain has welcomed Premier Daniel Andrews’ announcement all school children will be able to return to the classroom by the end of the year, but believes further clarity cannot come quickly enough for struggling families.
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Yolande Grosser, who has three daughters aged 15, 17 and 19, is among many Victorian parents wanting certainty for their children following a tough two years of yo-yoing COVID-19 restrictions.
The State Government’s roadmap out of lockdown, primarily based on Victorians hitting vaccination targets, includes a staggered return of year levels to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Mrs Grosser, who has been a chaplain at Horsham College since early 2020 and a member of the chaplaincy committee for seven years, said although she understood it was a complex situation, families needed greater certainty about when their children could return to the classroom.
The regional roadmap, announced Sunday, shows the government will wait for advice from the Chief Health Officer by September 30 before announcing any return to on-site learning for remaining year levels.
“We’re now in two weeks of school holidays and as a parent, I really want to see some sort of date on the calendar – even if it’s a staggered approach – by the start of term four,” she said.
“It’s great to have some certainty around VCE exams, because the kids need to know what they’re working towards, but every other year level needs some certainty as to when they can go back too.”
On September 10, on-site learning resumed for prep to grade two and year-12 students living in regional Victoria.
Remaining year levels finished term three remotely, although on-site supervision at schools was available for vulnerable children and children of essential workers.
Mrs Grosser said while education was important, so too was mental health.
“We are social beings and we’re all made for relationships,” she said.
“We need to be able to see people, to make plans and to have things to look forward to.
“Remote learning is putting a lot of strain on families, including parents who are trying to juggle working from home with helping their children navigate their education online.
“Families aren’t just dealing with the pandemic, life goes on. There are all sorts of different situations at home, including family illnesses, relationship breakdowns and all the stuff that was happening before COVID.
“With all the schoolwork being online, it really forces students to be disciplined and motivated, and not give in to the distraction that is the world wide web.
“With social media and funny videos, it’s so easy to get distracted. Not every teenager is a born entrepreneur who can manage their own time well. There are some kids who are naturally self-driven and motivated, but for many teenagers, it’s a little beyond them.
“Teenagers are already dealing with a lot of life issues. You’re worried about everything from what you look like to what you’re missing out on. Add the pressures of trying to learn from home and I’m really worried about the long-term effects of the pandemic on mental health.”
Mrs Grosser said Horsham College staff had ‘bent over backwards’ to try to help her daughters and all students throughout the pandemic.
She said the school’s wellbeing team regularly shared tips and strategies to help students improve their mental and physical health.
She said year 11 and 12 students had a dedicated wellbeing officer as well as access to a doctor, who visited the school once a month, and a nurse who was on-site weekly.
“Our principals, year level co-ordinators and teachers are also very experienced in supporting teens who might be struggling and are well trained at referring students to relevant health- care providers,” she said.
“Our school has also appointed a school nurse, whose main role is health promotion.
“Horsham College is doing a wonderful job – I cannot praise the efforts of the college leadership highly enough – but at the end of the day, the lockdowns associated with the pandemic are creating a really difficult future for our children and a multitude of issues that have no easy fix.”
Mrs Grosser said she was pleased to see year-12 students return to campus before school holidays.
“It was so lovely to hear them at lunch time, the vibe and the murmur of young people talking was beautiful,” she said.
“I know it’s a tense time with schoolwork and responsibilities, but it was uplifting as well, for them to be around people in the same situation.
“Hopefully we can welcome the rest of our students back at the start of term four, or at least have some clarity around what we can all expect.”