‘A path ahead’: Priority jabs for year 12s as remote learning lingers

‘A path ahead’: Priority jabs for year 12s as remote learning lingers

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It took three days for year 12 student Ella Denvir to secure a COVID-19 vaccine booking, but now her peers will be at the front of the queue.

Ella said news that year 12s will get priority vaccinations before their final exams reassured students who have endured six periods of remote learning in their final years of school.

VCE student Ahelee Rahman is glad year 12 students have received priority vaccination.Credit:Joe Armao

“I’m confident everyone will get vaccinated,” the 17-year-old said. “Now there’s a path ahead.”

That path isn’t so clear for other students after Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed on Wednesday there would be no return to face-to-face learning for Melbourne schools in term three, as he extended restrictions to combat rising coronavirus cases.

But in good news for the state’s 62,000-strong year 12 cohort, senior students, teachers and examiners will get priority vaccinations at the state’s vaccine hubs to ensure they can complete their final exams having had at least one dose.

“We will vaccinate our year 12s and we will get that done in good time,” Mr Andrews said, promising further announcements soon on vaccinating students as young as 12.

The government will send schools a vaccine booking number on Friday. This number will be sent to students on Monday. The jabs will not be mandatory at this stage.

A website booking system has yet to be confirmed for the so-called “10-day vaccination blitz”, which promises jabs in arms from Tuesday.

The government is urging students who have already booked for a vaccination at GPs or pharmacists to continue with their bookings.

It is also aiming to reduce the gap between first and second Pfizer jabs to three weeks, so students could be fully vaccinated by the time they sit their exams, which start on October 4.

The government also confirmed on Wednesday that the long-delayed General Achievement Test, which is undertaken by all year 12s, will be held on October 5. The test, usually held in June, is important in assessing how significantly each student’s education has been disadvantaged by the pandemic.

Ahelee Rahman, who is in year 11 but is studying year 12 subjects at Melbourne Girls Grammar, said she was glad VCE students were getting priority vaccination.

“I think it will make us feel more protected when we return to the classroom,” she said.

Some non-government schools, such as Balwyn girls’ school Fintona, have already vaccinated their staff with surplus vaccines from nearby GP clinics.

Meg Hansen, principal of Westbourne Grammar in Truganina and Newport, said her school had unsuccessfully sought vaccines for staff, and she had heard some students could not get bookings until November.

“There’s not only vaccination supply issues and appointment issues,” she said. “I think it’s been recognised that we need a system in place and the government is really keen to get the older kids back on site.”

Mr Andrews said he would detail plans for term four and regional schools next week.

Marco Di Cesare, principal of Catholic boys’ school Marcellin College, said while the continuation of remote learning was not surprising, it was clear many students, school staff and parents were struggling.

“It’s such a difficult time, and like all of us I’m concerned about the wellbeing of our kids as well as our community,” he said.

The extension means students will spend seven weeks learning from home this term, which finishes for public schools on Friday, September 17.

Victorian students have experienced six periods of remote learning since March 2020, with some missing close to 150 days of face-to-face learning.

Under current restrictions, schools and early learning centres remain closed to all but vulnerable children and the children of essential workers.

Colin Axup, president of the Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals, said schools could play an important role because they were in constant contact with their communities and had experience vaccinating their students.

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