BY WREN GILLETT
Today marked day one of all Victorian students’ return to remote learning, as the state recorded its worst day of the pandemic with 725 people diagnosed with COVID-19 and 15 new deaths.
Remote learning was brought back following the Premier’s announcement on August 2 of stage 4 restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne.
As of 11:59pm on August 4, any students completing VCE subjects who were previously allowed to complete on-campus learning in stage 3 restrictions will now be required to study remotely.
Regional students, who were also allowed to attend campuses, will be required to learn remotely under the introduction of stage 3 restrictions.
At the beginning of term three on July 13, with restrictions eased, some students felt they might regain a sense of normalcy. However, as the daily cases of people infected with COVID-19 continues to spike and Victoria now declared a 'State of Disaster', students have put their expectations to rest.
MacRobertson Girls High School Year 12 student Vee Tangri said this year is far from what she and her peers anticipated.
“We don’t get to experience what six years of schooling prepared us for,” she said.
Ms Tangri said, along with the isolating reality of at-home learning, students are also missing out on traditional Year 12 milestones, such as formals and school carnivals.
“While they are small wins, we need those small wins to help motivate us throughout the year,” she said.
Year 12 student from Upwey High School, Ruby Jensen, said a lack of motivation to study is central to why many senior students are anxious about returning to remote learning.
“While it suits some people, I thrive in a classroom environment,” she said.
“I am so much more motivated when I am around my peers.”
She said even while some students prefer the flexibility of remote learning, students inevitably miss the strong sense of Year 12 camaraderie that motivates the cohort.
“Supporting each other is the only thing that is going to make this easier,” she said.
Despite the desire to continue on-campus learning, senior students have expressed approval of the Victorian Government’s decision.
When MOJO News asked students whether they would rather attend on-campus or online learning for school today, there was a mutual preference to return to remote learning.
The Victorian Student Representative Council also called for a statewide return to remote learning. Its concern was for the negative impact the switch between schools reopening and closing may have on students’ learning, as well as their mental and physical health.
Prior to stage 4 restrictions, several Victorian schools had already closed, meaning some Year 12 students were learning from home, while others were not.
Ms Jensen said if a statewide return to remote learning could reduce inequity among Australian schools, this alternative model of teaching was preferable.
“If it’s more equitable that everyone is learning the same way, then that is completely understandable,” she said.
Ms Tangri added the safety and health of students will be aided by the closure of schools.
“It is almost impossible to keep students away from each other,” she said.
“Infection rates in schools are also very difficult to measure, because a lot of young people are asymptomatic.”
Ms Tangri’s mother works a teacher and has witnessed the amount of effort and time remote learning requires, encouraging students to be supportive of their teachers.
“I see her work until 1am most days,” Ms Tangri said.
“This is not out of the ordinary for most teachers.”
During stage 3 and 4 restrictions, schools remain open for students with special needs or whose parents are essential workers.
To date there has been 12,335 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Victoria. The virus has so far claimed 147 lives.