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Dallas McInerney (The Catholic Weekly/Ben Conolly)

Catholic Schools NSW chief Dallas McInerney says there is a risk attendance levels will never return to normal, calling for an inquiry into the long-term consequences of shutting down schools during the pandemic. Source: Sydney Morning Herald.

In a speech to school leaders on Thursday, Mr McInerney said he had argued to keep schooling as normal as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic and fought against the “easy option” of cancelling HSC exams.

“As government regulation meant our students were physically isolated from their peers and teachers … it has been found that too many were exposed to heightened levels of health and economic unease, through the media and in their homes,” he said.

“We also have a lasting effect on school attendance … we know that the workforce has not, and perhaps will not, return pre-COVID levels of at-work attendance, the same is true of students in NSW.”

The most recent attendance data shows that more than 60 per cent of NSW public high school students missed at least four weeks of class in 2022, the worst attendance level on record.

After the speech, Mr McInerney said he backed an inquiry into the pandemic response because the effects of those decisions, including closing down physical schooling, were still being felt.

The Albanese Government has yet to launch an inquiry into the federal and state governments’ responses to the pandemic, despite promising before the election to hold a “royal commission or some form of inquiry” into the country’s handling of COVID-19.

NSW Premier Chris Minns last month dismissed the need for a royal commission, saying there had been no evidence of “bad faith” decisions by governments during the crisis.


School’s out forever? Risk attendance will never bounce back: education chief (By Christopher Harris, Sydney Morning Herald