Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Peter Shergold included in SMH expert panel on effects of school closures during the COVID pandemic

Professor Peter ShergoldThe Sydney Morning Herald of Monday, 19 February 2024 led with the headline ‘We made the wrong decisions: COVID-era mass school closures condemned’. The SMH had convened a panel of Australian experts to examine the impacts that school closures had on students’ education and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic. Included in the panel was Society Vice-President, Emeritus Professor Peter Shergold AC FRSN FASSA, in his capacity as the chair of the NSW education regulator. The SMH panel called for a plan for future closures that puts the long- and short-term needs of children at the centre of policy decision-making.

Professor Shergold commented that “the lingering effects of school shutdowns on students, teachers, and parents underscored the importance of scrutinising unilateral decisions by state governments to mandate remote learning.” He noted that “The danger of school closures, which we always knew, was that it was going to accentuate disadvantage. After the closures in early 2020, we made the wrong policy decisions about closing school systems.”

“It was clearly the Commonwealth position to keep school systems open,” Shergold said. “It was states that were unpersuaded, and that’s why this present inquiry seems so bizarre that we’re not going to address their policy responses. It’s a crucial part of the story and ensuring that we’re better prepared for the next pandemic.” He said early in 2020 there “was a fog of war, and there was ill preparation – in Australia between federal and state governments – for a pandemic”, noting it was understandable schools closed in the first months.

For interested readers, the full article is available on the Sydney Morning website at the link above.

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