A Warrnambool principal fears there will be significant teacher shortages next month once COVID-19 vaccines become mandatory in schools.
King's College principal Allister Rouse has called for a longer lead time into mandatory vaccinations for school and early childhood staff than the current October 18 deadline.
Mr Rouse said there had been a lack of consultation with school leaders and more time would allow schools to plan for change and employ additional staff as needed.
He said in order to work, all staff were required to have a first dose by October 18 or have a booking within one week, with full vaccination required by November 29, unless there was a medical exemption.
The college also runs an early childhood centre and vaccinations will become mandatory in that setting too, where there is already severe statewide educator shortages.
"This is going to trigger significant teacher shortages and force schools to scrap subjects or cram students into combined classes," Mr Rouse said.
He also fears the mandate will impact year 12 students heading into their final exams as unvaccinated teachers won't be able to support them.
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Mr Rouse said it would be difficult to find relief teachers to cover the workload at short notice and "even more challenging for schools in rural and remote areas that will have great trouble finding extra staff, due to existing teacher shortages".
He said it didn't give schools a chance to finish the year well.
"Staff who've not had at least one vaccination by this date won't be allowed to work," he said. "How are schools expected to find staff to replace them at such short notice?"
He said many of the staff at King's College were fully vaccinated, with a recent survey indicating 50 per cent were double-dosed and a further 24 per cent had a first dose. About 10 per cent have indicated they don't intend to be vaccinated.
"In conversation with other principals (outside the region) some are indicating up to 20 per cent of their staff do not intend to be vaccinated," he said.
"Many staff feel that their right to choose to be vaccinated has been disregarded, with some staff choosing to vaccinate now because they are being forced to do so."
Mr Rouse is awaiting further clarity and direction from the Chief Health Officer around the future of unvaccinated staff. "Does it mean from October 18 they can't work? I'm imagining worst case scenario that those people would have to be stood down and I don't want to do that."
He said ideally more notice would have been given and the mandate rolled out next year. He'd like to see staff's vaccination status linked to state-based teacher registration, as is the case in New South Wales, rather than individual schools having to enforce it as appears to be the case in Victoria.
Mr Rouse has raised his concerns with Education Minister James Merlino and south-west MPs Dan Tehan, Roma Britnell and Bev McArthur. He has also written to the city's three secondary school principals.
He said aside from the vaccination direction, regional schools were waiting for confirmation about when term four onsite classes would resume, with years prep to 2 and 11 and 12 currently permitted. An announcement is expected later this week.
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