A dedicated ‘Response and Recovery’ team will become a permanent fixture within the NSW Government to better prepare schools in times of crisis, building on expertise picked up from recent bushfires, prolonged drought, floods and the COVID pandemic.
The new team will sit within the NSW Government’s Regional, Rural and Remote Policy Unit, which was announced by Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell earlier this year.
“The last few years have taught us to expect the unexpected and just how important it is to be well prepared for emergencies and to remain safe throughout crises and natural disasters,” Mr Barilaro said.
“Kids in the regions have been exposed to the impact of relentless drought, unprecedented bushfires and most recently, floods, and we need to make sure schools are supported to continue to provide a top-quality education, regardless of their situation.
“The newly established Response and Recovery team will work to assist schools with tangible teaching methods, remote learning techniques, evacuation protocols and safety measures to build resilient schools of the future. It’s critical for the NSW Government to take what we have learnt from recent experiences and be ready to act and respond when our communities need help.”
Ms Mitchell announced the new team today while hearing from representatives from 151 bushfire affected schools at the Phoenix Conference; a gathering of school leaders, students and recovery response experts from a number of organisations.
“The Phoenix Conference is an amazing opportunity for school leaders to finally gather together in person to share their experiences. It’s also a chance to acknowledge the work that has been done by school communities to ensure our students were able to continue to get a high quality education in some of the most challenging circumstances over the last 18 months,” Ms Mitchell said.
“This new response team will ensure that the safety of students and school staff remains the highest priority and will enable services to get to communities faster to provide whatever is needed during a crisis. This will allow us to continue to support schools to bounce back from any disasters.
“In response to the 2019/20 bushfires, impacted schools benefitted from bespoke, targeted mental health support for as long as they felt necessary, along with a freeze on staffing numbers despite fluctuating enrolments to ensure stability for students and additional professional development for staff.”
The $18 million Bushfire Hazard Mitigation Program is also being rolled in schools across the state, as well as Bushfire Vegetation Maintenance Plans across 700 schools.