school closures

NSW Covid School Closures Were ‘Politically Driven’ and Harmful: Expert Panel

22 February 2024

3.6 MINS

Convened by the Sydney Morning Herald, the experts claimed the harms of Covid school closures were obvious from the outset.

The months-long closure of New South Wales schools during the great Covid panic has caused immense, long-term harm to school children, according to a panel of top Australian education experts.

Convened by the Sydney Morning Herald, the panel concluded that the state’s two mass school closures in 2020 and 2021 “were unnecessary and led to a cascade of social and educational problems that threaten a generation of Australian children,” according to the tabloid.

“State decisions were often politically driven, some panellists said, ignoring the risk of long-lasting impacts on young children and teenagers, especially the most disadvantaged students who were most affected by the closures.”

According to the Herald, adolescent psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg lamented that school closures and remote learning “not only stunted the educational progress of young people, but increased their stress, isolated them and reduced their physical activity”.

The decision by the NSW Department of Education to shelve in-person schooling for more than five months “disrupted the schooling of millions of students and resulted in an attendance crisis and persistent behavioural issues,” the experts warned.

“Some of the worst aspects were the skyrocketing truancy rate, school refusal and significant issues with student discipline and distraction in the classroom, and self-regulation in the playground.”

The Herald flagged the review as the first in a series of three aimed at holding Australia’s political leaders to account for how their response to Covid hurt school children:

school closures

‘We Always Knew’ the Harms of School Closures

The mass school closures in NSW took place between March and May in 2020 and July to October of 2021, and came with the support of the state government, health authorities and the state’s Teachers Federation.

More than 1.2 million students were forced to learn remotely during that time or attend school with minimal supervision. Hundreds of risk-averse schools and childcare centres closed their doors much longer than the period mandated by authorities.

To this day, no Australian government, health agency or education department has presented the public with a cost-benefit analysis of lockdowns, school closures or other draconian measures imposed during the Covid era.

Among the four panellists consulted by the Herald were National Children’s Commissioner Anne Hollonds, and Peter Shergold, who chairs the NSW Education Standards Authority.

Shergold, who in 2022 contributed to an independent review of Australia’s Covid response titled ‘Fault Lines’, advised that the havoc wrought by mothballing in-person schooling statewide was entirely foreseeable.

“The danger of school closures, which we always knew, was that it was going to accentuate disadvantage,” he said.

While Shergold was forgiving about the first closure in 2020, he told the Herald that authorities “made the wrong policy decisions” when punishing the state a second time in 2021, in a school lockout that endured for a staggering 15 weeks.

Once it was clear that schools were not transmission hotspots — and that children were among the least vulnerable to the effects of Covid-19 and less likely than adults to spread the virus — the reliance on school closures should have ended, he argued.

Instead, “few groups have been more affected by the policy responses to control the virus” than children, he said.

According to the Herald, panelist Anne Hollonds also lamented the mainstream discourse driving school closures that “not only ignored the needs of children, but demonised them as ‘germy super-spreaders’.”

As previously reported by the Daily Declaration, people under 19 years of age who caught Covid-19 had a 99.9997% chance of survival — even before receiving any medical interventions — according to a peer-reviewed study that examined data from over 30 nations.

‘Bizarre’ for PM’s Covid Inquiry to Ignore Schools

In particular, the expert panel expressed concern that the upcoming Covid-19 Response Inquiry being run out of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s office has excluded the impact on schools from its terms of reference.

While the Commonwealth was in favour of keeping schools open, “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,” according to Peter Shergold.

The panel has urged the development of “a plan for future closures that puts the long and short-term needs of children at the centre of policy decision-making”.

The conclusions of the SMH panel are broadly in line with the editorial stance of the Daily Declaration since 2020, which published hundreds of articles critical of Australia’s Covid lockdowns before it was popular to do so.

As we have previously reported, Australian governments ultimately fritted away $400 billion to offset the damage they caused via lockdowns and other panicked measures.

Despite the eye-watering waste of taxpayer treasure, Australia still saw more excess deaths than the nation of Sweden, which was vilified as a ‘pariah state’ by a Covid-giddy media:

The Swedish approach always made more sense for a virus with an overall infection mortality rate of 0.15% (not 3.4% as originally reported), and which posed effectively no threat to the young and otherwise healthy.

The ‘Swedish Model’ involved no strict lockdowns, no school closures, no travel restrictions, voluntary distancing, limited mask usage, protection of vulnerable groups — and therefore, minimal impact on the economy.

In short, Swedish authorities rejected punitive and draconian measures in favour of individual responsibility, trusting that people would make wise and caring decisions to self-isolate if they were infected with the virus.

The belated account-keeping of the legacy press further highlights the dire need for independent Australian journalism.

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  1. Warren Brown 22 February 2024 at 10:07 am - Reply

    Although I agree the Lockdowns and Mandatory Vaccinations were dreconian measures, using Sweden as an example of better procedures and outcomes against Covid is unwise.

    I don’t rate looking at Infection Rates. Infection Rates really mean nothing if people recover and survive Covid and most people did.

    What is a better statistic and comparison example between countries on how they responded to the Covid pandemic is the number of people who actually DIED in each country from the viris.

    This is where Sweden falls down badly.

    Sweden has a population of just over 10 million and Australia’s population is just over 26 million. You would expect accordingly that Australia’s number of deaths would be significantly higher than Sweden. This is not the case.

    According to World O Meter (and discussions about the reporting of Covid deaths are for another day) Sweden’s Covid deaths number 27,258 as of mid February whereas Australia’s deaths from Covid is actually lower at 24,167. Even though our population is two and a half times higher!

    Deaths Per Million is a good Covid comparison statistic between countries of varying populations. In Deaths Per Million Sweden is at 2,667 whereas Australia is 927.

    In protecting its population from the Covid 19 viris, Sweden CANNOT be said to have done better than Australia or most other countries for that matter. The statistics plainly contradict that.

  2. Stephen Lewin 22 February 2024 at 10:55 am - Reply

    excess deaths need to be brought into the comparison too and Australia has unexplained excess deaths in 2021 onwards in the thousands whereas Sweden fares better

  3. Jillian Stirling 22 February 2024 at 11:40 am - Reply

    Sweden is indeed the country we should have emulated. Lockdowns, masks , isolation, dangerous injections, church closures and ghastly online church have all has a detrimental affect on all us but most especially on the young.
    Why is there no one accountable?

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