HUNTER teachers will overhaul their mode of delivery for the third time in six weeks when student mandatory attendance jumps from one to five days next week.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced on Tuesday all public school students will return to classrooms full time next Monday, a fortnight after they started attending one day a week as part of a staggered plan that originally had them taking a term to build up to full time attendance.
They had been asked to spend the two weeks before the school holidays at home and learning remotely if possible.
Teachers and families had mixed reactions about the complete resumption of face to face learning, which was leaked on Monday night ahead of the Premier's press conference and an afternoon briefing for principals.
NSW Primary Principals' Association Newcastle president, Kotara South Public principal Sue Maxworthy, plus NSW Secondary Principals' Council Hunter president, Kotara High principal Mark Snedden, said they were pleased students were returning and the government was doing "the best it can" to keep everyone informed.
"At the end of the day it's a win-win, kids are coming back to school," she said, adding teachers were excited about changing pedagogical approaches.
But NSW Teachers Federation regional organiser Jack Galvin Waight slammed the announcement, saying it "blindsided" staff and the union still had concerns about safety, vulnerable staff and transport.
"Hunter teachers feel disrespected by the Premier's announcement that schools would return without consulting with the union and informing teachers first," he said.
"Teachers have gone above and beyond in this crisis.
"They have spent hours providing support for students and resources for learning remotely in term two, and to now find out that this has all changed, without consultation, shows a lack of due regard to the profession."
Mum Bannaua Brown's sons joke they have been attending a military school during the six weeks they've been learning almost entirely from home.
Mrs Brown pulled Rowan from his year seven class at Callaghan College Waratah and Tobias from his year three class at Tighes Hill Public more than a week before Premier Gladys Berejiklian asked families on March 23 to keep students home if possible.
"We've got a routine and they both work to the timetables their schools have given them," Mrs Brown said.
"I'm pretty strict, they say I'm keeping a military school! I joke, 'It's 9am, school bell time'."
The boys started attending their schools one day a week last week, but this will jump to five days next week, following the government's announcement.
"I'm a bit concerned," Mrs Brown said.
"It seems like a massive risk. I'm not sure why we're going from one day straight to five, I really thought there might be a push to three days for a few weeks, then five. It's going a bit quickly."
She said principals at both her sons' schools were supportive and understanding when she withdrew them.
She said she felt she "didn't have a choice" about their return.
Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said on Tuesday remote learning units would not be offered after this week, rolls would be marked and "unexplained absences will be followed up".
A Department of Education spokesman said parents who believed their child had a condition that meant it wasn't safe for them to return would need to obtain a medical certificate.
"Students living with a family member categorised as being at increased risk should still attend school unless a medical practitioner advises otherwise," he said.
All school-based staff are also expected to return to campuses unless they are considered vulnerable.
Mrs Brown said Tobias in particular was a "homebody" and returning for five days would be a "shock".
"I know he'll enjoy it when he gets there, but I'm not sure how he's supposed to manage social distancing and space.
"We can't have [lots of] people over, really, but they're okay to go back five days a week?"
She said she also felt for teachers, who adapted quickly and worked through holidays on remote learning.
Meanwhile families at The Junction Public largely welcomed the decision.
Kerrie McGuire, dropping off her granddaughter Amirah, 5, said recent weeks had been confusing for small children.
"I honestly think if they're going back for one day then I really don't know there's a difference [to full time]," she said.
"As long as they stick to the rules and keep as much distance as they can I don't see a problem... I think they need to go back to normal or their mental health will suffer."
Dennis Hoffman withdrew his year six son Kaleb and his year five daughter Maisie from the school earlier than recommended due to Kaleb's compromised immune system, but said Kaleb's specialist had given him the all-clear to return.
"They were ready to go back," he said. "I have a lot more faith in the teachers' ability to teach my children than I do."
The Catholic Schools Office told families on April 29 it would maintain staggered school attendance combined with home learning until at least May 29.
A spokesperson said each of the 57 principals would communicate with their school communities from Wednesday onwards about the next step.
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