Kids shouldn’t have to repeat a year of school because of coronavirus. There are much better options



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Julie Sonnemann, Grattan Institute

Australian schools and teachers are preparing to shift classes online – some independent schools already have. Remote learning is likely to be the norm in the second term and possibly longer.

Even if done well, there are still likely to be learning losses.

Rigorous US studies of online charter schools show students learn less than similar peers in traditional face-to-face schools.

This makes sense, because learning is a social activity. The evidence shows positive effects are stronger where technology is a supplement for teaching, rather than a significant replacement – the situation we face now.

Our disadvantaged students will be hardest hit. Children from poorer households do worse at online learning for a host of reasons; they have less internet access, fewer technological devices, poorer home learning environments and less help from their parents when they get stuck.

Students who are struggling academically are at risk too. Asking students to independently work through large parts of the curriculum online can create extra stresses as it requires them to regulate their own learning pace. Many struggle with this, especially students who are already behind.




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To be clear, this is not an argument against online learning. Digital learning offers much potential for schools and students. Several online programs, including digital games, simulations, and computer-aided tutoring show positive results when used to support to learning.

But the success of online initiatives relies on preparation and good implementation. A rapid-fire response to shift teaching online to large populations during a pandemic is unlikely to produce above-average results.

So what should the government do post-COVID-19 when school re-opens to help students bounce back?

Catch-up programs

Many students are likely to be behind, and some will be very far behind. If schools are closed for all of term two, and possibly term three, many students will have a lot to catch up on to move up a grade in 2021. What lies ahead is a difficult and unprecedented situation for our educators.

Governments and schools have several options. Getting struggling students to repeat a year shouldn’t be one of them, unless school closures go much longer than expected. Evidence shows repeating a year is one of the few educational interventions that harms a student academically. Those who repeat a year can become unmotivated, have less self-esteem, miss school and complete homework less often.

A better option is for educators to conduct intensive tuition for small groups, before or after the normal school day. These sessions could be targeted at the most disadvantaged and struggling students in groups of two to five students.

Evidence generally shows the smaller the tuition group, the bigger the effects. One-on-one tutoring has the largest effects in most cases, but given it is more expensive, small group tuition could be tried as a first step.




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Another option is intensive face-to-face academic programs delivered over a few weeks. These could be similar to what Americans call “summer school” programs, but with a stronger academic focus and targeted at struggling students.

In Australia, these could be run in the week prior to schools re-opening, or over the term three or term four holidays. US evidence shows students who attend summer school programs can gain two months of extra learning progress compared to similar students who do not.

The impacts of summer programs are larger when academically focused and delivered intensively with small group tuition by experienced teachers.

Of course, teachers can also do more during regular face-to-face school lessons to help kids catch up, and the current crises may create extra focus on what teaching practices and programs work best. But given the likely size of the challenge, additional catch-up measures will still be needed.

The costs would flow back into economy

The costs of these sorts of catch-up programs are significant, but affordable. For example, we calculate providing small-group tuition for half of the students across Australia would cost about A$900 million. This is based on groups of three students receiving 30 minutes of tuition, five times a week, for two full terms, at a cost of $460 per student.

Conducting a three-week intensive summer school for say 800,000 disadvantaged students across Australia would cost about $800 million, assuming a cost of $1,000 per student based on US and UK experiences.

These are not big sums in the scheme of the economic stimulus and rescue package spending for COVID-19. If new catch-up programs cost, let’s say, between $2-4 billion, that is only 3-6% of the federal government’s stimulus measures announced to date.




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And the money for summer schools and small group tuition would flow to extra salaries for teachers, providing financial stimulus at a time when the economy really needs it.

No doubt schools and teachers will do their best to continue student learning while schools are closed. And through this process we will also learn a lot about how to do online learning for large populations, and improve along the way.

But despite best efforts, we should prepare for learning losses and plan for catch-up programs.The Conversation

Julie Sonnemann, Fellow, Grattan Institute

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Trying to homeschool because of coronavirus? Here are 5 tips to help your child learn



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David Roy, University of Newcastle

A number of schools in Australia have shut after students and staff tested positive for COVID-19. And some private schools have moved to online classes pre-emptively.

Many parents are keeping their children home as a precaution for various reasons. Attendance in schools has fallen, by as much as 50% in some.

The current medical advice is for schools to remain open and for children to go to school, unless they are unwell. But if your child is staying home from school, you may be wondering how you can support their learning.

Here are some things you can do to help your child learn from home.

1. Set up a learning space

Create an area in the house for your child to be able to focus on learning. There are no clear guidelines on what a learning area should look like. In fact schools have found creating learning areas or spaces to be a challenge. This is because every child has individual ways of learning, so what works for one may not work for another.

Home learning has an advantage in that it can cater to the individual child. As long as the student can focus and be safe, there are no limits to where the learning can take place. Feel free to allow children different places to learn, whether lying on the ground or sitting at a table – whatever works best for them.

But try to limit distractions. Turning the TV off and switching off app notifications will help.




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2. Think about the technology you’ll need

It’s worth checking what programs you will need to access the work the school send. You may need Adobe Acrobat Reader (which is free) or any specific video players such as Abode Flashplayer.

If they are not free, it’s worth checking if the school has a shared license or access package you can use. Companies are offering some online programs and services free during the COVID-19 period. Adobe, for instance, is offering school IT administrators free access to its Creative Cloud facilities until May 2020.

You may also need to download teleconferencing facilities such as Zoom or Skype that teachers may use to deliver lessons. These are free, but make sure you are downloading from the official developers, as some other sites may expose your computer to malware.

3. Create a structure

Make sure your children do not just see this as an extended holiday but as normal school, from home. It’s important to create a structure.

Mainstream schools have a timetabled structure throughout the week, so rather than disrupting your child’s routine, you might wish to follow your child’s school routine.




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There is no specific time students should spend studying however, given different students of different ages will complete tasks and grasp concepts at different rates.

The advice is to aim for the time frames provided by the schools, and then be flexible depending on how your child is progressing.

There are no hard and fast rules as to how long your child studies for, or where.
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Communication is key. Keep checking in with your children as to how they are progressing, offering help as they feel they need it.

This is how teachers work continually throughout the day with the 20 to 30 children in their classroom.

We all need to process new learning so allow children time to relax between learning periods. But there are no hard and fast rules over how many breaks they should have or how long these should be. Research shows giving children freedom to choose how they learn, and how long for, can increase their motivation.

4. Get to know what your child should know

If your child’s school has moved to online learning, as a supervising adult you will be more a teacher’s aide or facilitator rather than a replacement teacher. It’s likely schools will provide learning materials, although some may not if the school is still open and your child is staying home for other reasons. It’s worth checking with the school, either way.

For each year level schools apply their state mandated curriculum based on the Australian Curriculum to create a year long program of work. Any work sent home by the school will be based on the appropriate age and stage of the curriculum to ensure students maintain their progression.

This is key, in particular, for year 11 and 12 students who must maintain focus on their studies for the end of year exams.




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It can be useful to know why schools choose certain types of work for students to do. So you may wish to browse through the state and territory curriculum documents (NSW, VIC, WA, SA, ACT, NT, TAS and QLD)

Key to understanding these sometimes confusing and complex documents is looking for outcomes and indicators – such as this for year 5 English. You can find all of this information in the relevant year level and subject category.

Outcomes are, in simplest form, the goal a child is to achieve at a certain level. Indicators are the suggested ways your child will show their achievements.

All aspects of the Australian Curriculum can be downloaded as required. States and territory regulators offer guides to understand each curriculum, such as Victoria.

5. Be around to help, but don’t get in the way

States and territories are putting supporting information online for how the parents can be a teacher’s guide and facilitator.

If your child is finding a particular task difficult, be available to make suggestions and answer questions, but try to let them do things themselves as much as possible.

If you don’t know the answer, work with your child to discover a solution. Let your child, where possible, self regulate – that is to take control of their own learning and not rely on you.




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You may need to take your child back a step to reinforce a concept before they move onto a new one. An example might be in long division, where reinforcing decimal points, or even subtraction, needs to be revised first.

If all else fails…

There are many online support activities for children learning from home. Where possible try to only use those from official education authorities. The NSW home schooling regulator (NESA) has published some links for home schooling families, that anyone can use.

If you are lost in what to do, then encourage your child to read. Model reading, get your children books and discuss them. Developing a love for reading in your children will help them in all learning areas, no matter how long they don’t physically go into school.




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The Conversation


David Roy, Lecturer in Education, University of Newcastle

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

My child is staying home from school because of coronavirus. Is that illegal?



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John O’Brien, Queensland University of Technology

In a recent press conference on the COVID-19 situation, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Australia schools would remain open for the foreseeable future. He said:

The health advice here, supported by all the Premiers, all the Chief Ministers and my Government is that schools should remain open […] I am asking all other parents around the country […] There’s only one reason your kids shouldn’t be going to school and that is if they are unwell.

But many parents are keeping their children home. Some are doing this in an effort to “flatten the curve”, and others may be worried for the health of their child or elderly relatives.

Attendance in schools across Australia has fallen, by as much as 50% in some. Considering parents are going against the directive of governments, are they breaking the law by taking their kids out of school to study at home?

On the face of it, the answer is yes. But it’s not black and white, and the likelihood of criminal proceedings is traditionally very low. Fining parents has always been considered a last resort, and that would seem unlikely to change in a time like now.

But the law is the law, and is there for a specific social purpose – it is never advisable to willingly and persistently ignore it.

What does the law say?

School education is governed by state and territory laws that mandate compulsory education. Parents are legally obliged to ensure their child attends school (or other educational options such as homeschooling) every school day, unless the parent has a reasonable excuse.

The maximum fine that can be issued to a parent varies considerably across jurisdictions. If a parent was to face court (normally this would be for persistent non-attendance), the fine in Queensland can be up to A$800, whereas in New South Wales, it could be $2,750.




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But again, prosecuting parents will not usually be the first response, and these figures are the maximum a court may impose. Many states either suggest or require warnings, notices, meetings or conferences before a case can be recommended for prosecution.

Is COVID-19 a ‘reasonable excuse’?

Most jurisdictions provide for a reasonable excuse to be given, and then often provide a few examples of what this might cover. If a child is actually sick, this would often be listed as an acceptable reason for their absence.

Similarly, six of the jurisdictions (ACT, NSW, NT, Qld, Tas, WA) specifically mention a defence where the child is required to stay home due to a public health direction. The current direction of governments is for healthy children to go to school. But this defence could cover a situation where a family member is confirmed to have COVID-19, or the child has recently returned from overseas, and therefore needs to self-quarantine for 14 days.

South Australia has a new Act which could allow a parent to keep a healthy child at home to prevent the risk of the child catching a disease; however this law has not yet begun to operate.

Without there being any specific and obvious defence for parents, it would come down to whether removing a child from school due to the threat of COVID-19 is considered a “reasonable” excuse.

Who decides?

In a worst-case scenario, it would be a court that would ultimately decide this question. But there are a range of decision-makers involved in school non-attendance cases who precede a court, including school principals.

Parents could apply for an exemption to their obligations in advance of their child’s absence. Decision-makers for exemptions vary between jurisdictions, and sometimes even within a jurisdiction depending on whether the child is at a state or non-state school.

Powers might be vested in the relevant minister (NSW, SA, Tas, Vic, WA), a departmental CEO/director-general or their delegate (ACT, NT, Qld State Schools), or a school principal (Qld non-state schools).

A factor that might make it more reasonable for the child to be exempted could be if there are other household members who fit into high-risk categories (for example, someone who is immuno-compromised). Also relevant might be what provision has been made for the child once the parent removes them – will the child be doing schoolwork, or playing video-games unsupervised all day?




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The prime minister said anything we do we would need to do for six months. This situation isn’t likely to resolve itself anytime soon, and it’s uncertain whether government advice will change with regard to schools.

For now, technically, keeping healthy children at home can be considered illegal. But the likelihood of criminal proceedings is low, and a government decision to prosecute parents would, I imagine, be publicly unpalatable.The Conversation

John O’Brien, Associate Lecturer, School of Law, Queensland University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Schools are open during the coronavirus outbreak but should I voluntarily keep my kids home anyway, if I can? We asked 5 experts



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Sunanda Creagh, The Conversation

Editor’s note: This article is based on the coronavirus situation in Australia as of March 19. The situation may change over time.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said government schools across Australia will remain open for the foreseeable future as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads. He added that:

as a father, I’m happy for my kids to go to school. There’s only one reason your kids shouldn’t be going to school and that is if they are unwell.

However, many parents are already voluntarily keeping their children home in an effort to “flatten the curve” – or are considering doing so.

We asked five experts to answer the question: schools are staying open but should I voluntarily keep my kids home anyway, if I can?

Four of the five experts said no

Sign up to The ConversationThe Conversation

Sunanda Creagh, Head of Digital Storytelling, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Kids at home because of coronavirus? Here are 4 ways to keep them happy (without resorting to Netflix)



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Erin Mackenzie, Western Sydney University and Penny Van Bergen, Macquarie University

Some schools in Australia have moved online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools in which students and staff have tested positive have temporarily shut over the past three weeks.

It’s important to note the government’s health advice is to keep schools open. But many parents are choosing to keep their kids home for various reasons.

If your child is home more than usual, their normal sense of routine has been disrupted and you may be wondering how to ensure they don’t go stir crazy.

Here are four ways to keep your kids happy if they’re home for long periods.

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1. Create a routine early

Children and teenagers thrive on routine. Some children may also experience anxiety about what is happening, and a new routine can help provide them with a sense of normalcy.

Plan a rough daily routine with times for different activities: school work, exercise, chores, creativity or free play, and time on digital devices.

Research also suggests children be involved in negotiating their routines as this helps support their empowerment. Older teenagers, who may be used to managing their affairs, may only require minor prompts to help with their routine.




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By creating a rough routine, you allow children to know what to expect. For example, you can show children the times you will be fully available to them and the times you will be working or busy.

Where schoolwork is offered online, and you find yourself in the role of teaching support, a routine also allows children to know when your teacher hat is on and when it comes off again.

2. Help them get exercise

Many sporting activities have been cancelled for this season. Yet exercise is critical for young people’s physical and mental health.

Think creatively about the activities children and teenagers can do when confined to the home. Opportunities for exercise might include a mini bootcamp in the backyard, an obstacle course through the house, physically active video games (dance, fitness, boxing), or kid-friendly dance and kids yoga classes on YouTube.

Primary-aged children love it when parents are involved in active play with them.
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Primary-aged children are likely to love having their parents involved in such activities, and research shows parent support for exercise and role modelling improves teenagers’ exercise participation.

3. Help them stay social

Social distancing measures reduce children’s capacity to socialise with friends. What this means may differ depending on the age of your child.

Deep emotional connections with friends are extremely important for teenagers and many will turn to social media to discuss their feelings. Yet recent research has shown teenagers who go online for emotional support may experience more worry. This may be because the quality of support they find there may be poor, and they may also experience uncertainty about some of the messages they encounter.

You can encourage teenagers to continue using social media to bond with friends and peers, but to take regular breaks and share their bigger worries with parents. If they hear any alarming information about COVID-19 from their friends, it’s important to remind them to verify the information by checking with reputable sources – like the Australian government’s website.




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While primary-age children’s friendships may be less emotionally intense than teenagers’, they may still miss the company of their friends during an extended period of isolation. Research with children isolated due to hospitalisation shows digital devices can be effective in providing a sense of connection with peers.

Supervised FaceTime, Zoom or Skype play-dates may also help provide this connection. And children can write letters or draw cards to then photograph and send digitally to friends and family.

4. Think beyond Netflix

Harnessing your child or teenager’s interests is key to engaging them in new activities, especially when Netflix or video games are the alternative.

Talk to your child about a new skill they would like to learn or a place they would like to visit, and investigate real and virtual possibilities for accessing these. There are endless opportunities to learn new skills together through online platforms such as YouTube.




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You could teach children games and skills you enjoy (such as cooking, chess, coding or science experiments). Virtual excursions promote interest and learning, and these are offered by many museums and zoos around the world.

You can teach children skills you enjoy.
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Children and teenagers are also strongly motivated by “achievable challenges”. Think creatively about challenges you could take together.

You could build a fort with every Lego block in the house, choose five board games for a family tournament or fix a neglected area of the garden.

Children’s ability to sustain and direct attention increases across time, so it is useful to plan these activities with your own child’s attention skills in mind. By rotating activities regularly, and aiming to complete one or two each day, it becomes easier over time to limit passive TV viewing.




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Children and teenagers stuck at home may become bored, experience increased conflict with family, or express stress and frustration in unhelpful ways. When you observe lapses in emotion control (such as temper tantrums), it is important to place these in context.

It can be useful to acknowledge how your child is feeling, and help them develop resilient emotional responses by problem-solving a path forward together.The Conversation

Erin Mackenzie, Lecturer in Education, Western Sydney University and Penny Van Bergen, Associate Professor in Educational Psychology and Associate Dean, Learning and Teaching, Macquarie University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

8 tips on what to tell your kids about coronavirus



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Mandie Shean, Edith Cowan University

As the number of new cases of coronavirus infection continue to rise the impact is now being felt in schools in Australia. At least four closed due to students and a staff member testing positive for the virus. Most international travel by Queensland students is also banned.

It’s therefore important for parents to be there for their children to ease any concerns they may have about the virus and how it could affect them.

One thing to note is the number of reported infection cases in children remains low: of more than 44,000 confirmed cases from China, only 416 (less than 1%) were aged nine years or younger. No deaths were reported in this age group.




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Children are either being infected less or exhibit milder symptoms, but they may still play an important role in transmitting the virus.

So here’s some advice for parents to help them and their children stay informed.

1. Control during uncertainty

The new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 causes the disease COVID-19, which can be like a common cold but it can also have more serious complications. Signs of infection may include: fever, cough and shortness of breath. More severe cases can involve pneumonia, kidney failure and even death.

The spread of SARS-CoV-2 has not yet been declared a pandemic but the Australian government has said it’s operating on the basis that it has.

One reason people experience anxiety during a pandemic is uncertainty about its impact. Research during the 2009 swine flu (H1N1) pandemic found those people who struggled with uncertainty were more likely to see the pandemic as threatening, and this can lead to increased levels of anxiety.

One way to provide our children with certainty in uncertain times is with facts, for example, telling them the evidence so far shows children are less likely to experience severe symptoms than older adults.

You can also help them gain a sense of control by giving them strategies to help prevent them catching the virus.

2. Practise good hygiene

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says we should channel our concern into good hygiene.

Encourage your children to wash their hands with soap and water frequently (particularly after going to the toilet, coming from a public place, and before and after eating).

Encourage your children to wash their hands frequently.

Children should also use a tissue to sneeze into and put the tissue in the bin afterwards.

3. Be careful with the news media

A quick scan of the news brings up headlines such as “Australia’s coronavirus death rate could proportionally be worse than China’s, expert warns”. This report even includes a graph showing “How likely are you to die from Coronavirus?”

Exposing children to such reports can increase their fear and anxiety.

There is a clear and strong relationship between what children see as threatening information in the media and their level of fear.

So be careful with what news media your children are exposed to. Try to watch, listen or read it with them so you are there for any questions they may have.

4. Stay with the facts

When answering such questions, use information from the World Health Organisation and other trustworthy sources to inform yourself.

Filter some of the incorrect information around preventing COVID-19 (eating garlic, having hot baths) and inform your family with the correct information. Don’t be someone who passes on incorrect information to your children or others.

5. Talk about your feelings

It’s OK to feel worried. Talking about your feelings of stress can help you work through them.

If you try to push down feelings of stress this can have an impact on your health.

As parents you only have to listen and hear your child’s concerns. You can’t promise things will be safe or certain. But you can assure them that as a family you will work together to manage whatever comes up in the future and that you are there to listen to them.

6. Don’t pass on your fear

Research from the 2009 Swine Flu pandemic showed children’s fear of the disease was significantly related to their parents’ fear of the disease.

This effect of parents passing on fear even exists when there is nothing to fear. Research showed if parents get negative information about something that is harmless, they are more likely to pass on those negative beliefs to their children and increase their level of fear.

So even if you feel stressed about COVID-19, you need to make sure you don’t pass on this fear to your children. Show them you are calm. Don’t be a carrier for fear.

7. Keep on living life

It is easy to get swept away with panic about the future and what may happen. But being future-focused only contributes to anxiety.

Help your child to focus on the now and what they are doing today. These things are in their control – work hard at school, train for basketball. Continue their routine and enjoy the moments.




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8. Work together

This is not a time to be selfish, but to work together and support one another.

Be kind to others (don’t steal their toilet paper) and encourage your children to be kind to others as well.

Being less self-focused helps to alleviate stress and give life more meaning and purpose.The Conversation

Mandie Shean, Lecturer, School of Education, Edith Cowan University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Worried about your child getting coronavirus? Here’s what you need to know



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Christopher Blyth, University of Western Australia; Allen Cheng, Monash University, and Asha Bowen, Telethon Kids Institute

The new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease COVID-19, has infected nearly 90,000 people and caused more than 3,000 deaths so far.

Parents are understandably concerned. But it’s important to keep in mind that comparatively few children have tested positive for the virus, and deaths in children are very rare.

Here’s what we know so far about how children are affected.




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Remind me, what is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is caused by a new strain of a family of viruses discovered in the 1960s. Coronaviruses get their name from a distinctive corona or “crown” of sugary proteins surrounding the virus when seen under a powerful microscope.

Coronaviruses circulate in humans, usually causing a mild illness with cough and a runny nose. Coronaviruses are also frequently found in animals with speculation COVID-19 emerged from animals, most likely bats.

Coronaviruses have a crown of sugary proteins.
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Three novel coronaviruses have emerged this century.

In 2002-03, SARS-CoV (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus) emerged in China spreading to North America, South America and Europe. More than 8,000 cases were identified and around 10% of those infected died.

MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus), emerged from camels in Saudi Arabia in 2012. A large outbreak followed in South Korea in 2015. Nearly 2,500 cases have been reported and 34% of those infected died.




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SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV infection in children is less commonly reported than would be expected. For example, 3.4% of cases of MERS coronavirus in Saudi Arabia were in children, where around 15% of the population is under 19 years of age.

A similar pattern was seen in SARS, where the rate of reported infection in children under 14 years of age was much lower than in older age groups.

COVID-19 was first detected in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and has already caused more deaths than SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV combined.

So what about children?

The number of reported COVID-19 cases in children remains low: of more than 44,000 confirmed cases from China, only 416 (less than 1%) were aged nine years or younger. No deaths were reported in this age group.

In Australia, only one child has so far had confirmed COVID-19 infection.

Why are children so under-represented?
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It remains unclear whether the low numbers of child infections recorded is due to:

  • low numbers of children being exposed to the virus
  • low numbers of children being infected, or
  • low numbers of infected children developing symptoms severe enough to present for care.

If large numbers of children are not getting sick, why does it matter?

If children are infected yet have milder symptoms, they may still play a critical role in COVID-19 transmission. Children are mobile, shed large volume of virus, congregate in groups and are at lower risk of severe disease so often maintain their daily activities.

Preventing school-age children getting infected with influenza has been shown to be an effective community prevention strategy. In the absence of a COVID-19 vaccine, school closures may need to be considered when looking at ways to decrease community spread, if children are found to be key transmitters of infection.

What symptoms do children get?

Chinese doctors report infected children often have a cough, nasal congestion, runny nose, diarrhoea and a headache. Less than half of the children have a fever. Many have no symptoms.

The majority of children and adolescents with COVID-19 in China had mild infections and recovered within one to two weeks.

Even infants, who are traditionally more susceptible to severe respiratory infections, had relatively mild infections.

How can you tell if it’s COVID-19?

Most children with COVID-19 present with respiratory symptoms and/or a cough, which is indistinguishable from other common viruses including influenza and rhinovirus.

But so far, all children with confirmed COVID-19 have had family members or close contacts with confirmed infection.




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In the early part of an Australian epidemic, confirming COVID-19 infections will be important to guide our public health response. However if COVID-19 cases continue to climb, this testing approach may change to only test patients who are hospitalised as the only benefit of confirming COVID-19 infection will be to inform treatment and infection control practices in hospitalised patients.

At this stage, it’s unclear if antiviral therapies are useful in the treatment of COVID-19. Many older drugs, such as lopinavir used to treat HIV, have been used to treat some severe cases but need to be formally evaluated. Clinical trials have been registered and some results from Chinese researchers are expected soon.

However, as children have such mild symptoms, it would be hard to justify exposing them to potential side effects of antiviral medication, such as nausea, vomiting and allergic reactions, for little benefit.

How do I prevent my family from being infected?

COVID-19 is spread by droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Infection can be transmitted if a person touches objects or surfaces that an infected person has coughed and sneezed on and then touches their mouth, nose or face.

The best way to avoid COVID-19 infection (and infection with any other respiratory virus) is by washing your hands with soap and water, using a tissue or the crook of your elbow to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and by avoiding close contact with others who are unwell.

The best way to avoid respiratory infections is to wash your hands.
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Masks in the community are only helpful in preventing people who have COVID-19 disease from spreading it to others. There is little evidence supporting the widespread use of surgical masks in healthy people to prevent transmission in public – and it’s almost impossible to get small kids to consistently wear these.

A vaccine for COVID-19 is still some way off. But it’s worthwhile getting your child vaccinated against influenza. This is not only to protect your child against influenza, but also to reduce the chance your child might be considered to have COVID-19, and to minimise other illnesses in the community that would use health resources.




Read more:
Here’s why the WHO says a coronavirus vaccine is 18 months away


The Conversation


Christopher Blyth, Paediatrician, Infectious Diseases Physician and Clinical Microbiologist, University of Western Australia; Allen Cheng, Professor in Infectious Diseases Epidemiology, Monash University, and Asha Bowen, Head, Skin Health, Telethon Kids Institute

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Five ways parents can help their kids take risks – and why it’s good for them



Have real conversations with your kids about what they’re doing, and the potential consequences of their actions.
from shutterstock.com

Linda Newman, University of Newcastle and Nicole Leggett, University of Newcastle

Many parents and educators agree children need to take risks. In one US study, 82% of the 1,400 parents surveyed agreed the benefits of tree-climbing outweighed the potential risk of injury.

Parents cited benefits including perseverance, sharing, empowerment and self-awareness. One parent thought it allowed her son to learn what his whole body was capable of.




Read more:
Should I let my kid climb trees? We asked five experts


Taking risks and succeeding can motivate children to seek further achievements. Failing can lead to testing new ideas, and finding personal capabilities and limits. In this way, children can overcome fears and build new skills.

We mentored a group of educators in a research project trialling how to best introduce kids to risk.

Parents identified sharing and collaboration as one benefit of letting kids climb trees.
from shutterstock.com

Parents can use some of the lessons these educators learnt to help their own children take more risks and challenge themselves.

What was the research?

Adamstown Community Early Learning and Preschool (NSW) wanted to conduct research around risky play. “Risky play” is a term which has evolved from a trend to get more children out into nature to experience challenging environments.

Adamstown wanted to find out whether adult intervention to promote safe risk-taking would play a significant role in developing children’s risk competence.

Educators engaged children in conversations about risk, asked prompting questions and helped them assess potential consequences.

The Adamstown research built on 2007 Norwegian research that identified six categories of risky play:

  • play at great heights, where children climb trees or high structures such as climbing frames in a playground

  • play at high speed, such as riding a bike or skateboarding down a steep hill or swinging fast

  • play with harmful tools, like knives or highly supervised power tools to create woodwork

  • play with dangerous elements, such as fire or bodies of water

  • rough and tumble play, where children wrestle or play with impact, such as slamming bodies into large crash mats

  • play where you can “disappear”, where children can feel they’re not being watched by doing things like enclosing themselves in cubbies built of sheets or hiding in bushes (while actually being surreptitiously supervised by an adult).

The educators examined their practices in these areas to see how and whether they were engaging children in risky play, and how children were responding.

Skating down a hill is one way kids can engage in risky play.
from shutterstock.com

Here are five lessons educators learnt that parents can apply at home.

1. Have real conversations with children (don’t just give them instructions)

Adamstown educators found children were more likely to attempt risky play when adults talked to them about planning for, and taking, risks.

Parents can use similar strategies with their children, helping them question what they are doing and why.

Phrases like “be careful” don’t tell children what to do. Instead, say things like

That knife is very sharp. It could cut you and you might bleed. Only hold it by the handle and cut down towards the chopping board.

Equally, praise with meaning, using phrases like

You cut the cake, thinking about how you held the knife and didn’t slip or cut yourself. Well done!

It is important for children to provide insight into their own problem solving. You could ask their thoughts on what might happen if they used the knife incorrectly or what safety measures they could put in place. This will help develop their risk competence.

2. Introduce risk gradually

Allow your children to try new things by slowly increasing the levels of difficulty.

At Adamstown, a process of introducing children to fire spanned nine months. First – on the advice of an early childhood education consultant – they introduced tea-light candles at meal times. This then moved to a small fire bowl in the sandpit, before children were introduced to a large open fire pit.




Read more:
Ensuring children get enough physical activity while being safe is a delicate balancing act


The fire pit is now used for many reasons. In winter, children sit around it in a circle and tell stories. Educators show them cooking skills, referencing the ways Australia’s First Nations People cook. The fire pit is also used to create charcoal for art.

Encourage your children to think about risk when they’re in a safe situation.
from shutterstock.com

Children have been made aware of the safe distance they need to keep and about the potential hazard of smoke inhalation.

During the research process, as children were introduced to more risk, there were no more injuries than before and all were minor. There were also no serious incidents such as broken bones, or events requiring immediate medical attention.

3. Assume all your children are competent – regardless of gender

Adamstown educators were surprised to discover that, although they weren’t excluding girls from risky play, the data indicated they challenged and invited participation more often with boys.

Parents may hold intrinsic biases they are not necessarily aware of. So, check yourself to see if you are:

  • allowing boys to be more independent

  • assuming boys are more competent or girls don’t really want to take as many risks

  • dressing girls in clothes that limit their freedom to climb

  • saying different things to boys and girls.

4. Be close-by but allow children to have a sense of autonomy

Children don’t always want to be supervised. Search for opportunities to allow them to feel as if they are alone, or out of sight. Be close-by, but allow them to think they are playing independently.

5. Discuss risk at times that don’t directly involve it

When walking together to the shops, talk about the risks involved in crossing roads, such as fast cars. You can note safe and unsafe situations as well as encouraging your child to notice these as you go about your daily life. This can also be done in relaxed situations like in the bath.

This way, when the time comes for your child to learn a new skill like crossing the road alone, they have already had some opportunity to consider measures to keep themselves safe in a non-stressful situation.

If your child has a fall or other mishap, when everything is settled again, ask your child about why it happened and how they might suggest it could be prevented next time.




Read more:
Kids learn valuable life skills through rough-and-tumble play with their dads


This article was written with Kate Higginbottom, Service Director and Nominated Supervisor at Adamstown Community Early Learning and Preschool Centre.

The Adamstown centre was part of a larger research project, in which four Australian early childhood centres in Newcastle took part as practitioner researchers.The Conversation

Linda Newman, Associate Professor, University of Newcastle and Nicole Leggett, Senior Lecturer, University of Newcastle

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

140th out of 146: Australian teens do close to the least physical activity in the world



Teenagers across the world are failing to meet physical activity targets – but Australian teens are doing worse than most.
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Brendon Hyndman, Charles Sturt University

In a study published in The Lancet today, we find out how 1.6 million adolescent school students from across 146 countries are faring in terms of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) physical activity recommendations.

The answer: pretty dismally. And Australia is among the worst, ranked 140 out of the 146 countries studied.

The WHO guidelines for this age group recommend a minimum of one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. That’s a jogging-like intensity that gets you sweating and puffing.




Read more:
How much physical activity should teenagers do, and how can they get enough?


This benchmark has been set based on what we know about the benefits of regular movement for good physical health (fitness, strong muscles and bones) and preventing disease (such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart disease). Not getting enough physical activity is one of the leading causes of death worldwide.

So if young Australians are losing out on these benefits, it’s concerning. While it’s a huge problem to tackle, we can take important steps at school and at home.

The study

The researchers analysed data from students aged 11 to 17 provided in surveys. Although movement devices (such as accelerometers and pedometers) are generally the most accurate way to measure physical activity, surveys can reach large populations and provide valuable insights on a national and even global scale.

The study provided figures for two time points – 2001 and 2016. In 2016, an average of just one in five adolescents across the 146 countries met the recommended physical activity levels. More boys meet these guidelines than girls.

Australia came in seventh from the bottom when it came to the proportion of adolescents not getting enough physical activity. This placed Australia ahead of only Cambodia, Philippines, South Korea, Sudan, Timor-Leste and Zambia.

Kids’ physical activity levels tend to decline when they move from primary school to high school.
From shutterstock.com

These findings align with recent national report cards that graded Australian adolescents’ physical activity as a lowly “D-”.

The researchers predicted just over one in ten Australian adolescents were meeting global physical activity recommendations in 2001 (87% were not) and in 2016 (89% were not). So if anything, things are getting worse.




Read more:
How physical activity in Australian schools can help prevent depression in young people


Why is this age group doing so poorly?

Research continues to show a child’s physical activity participation has often peaked in primary school, before they transition into secondary school.

In high school, there tend to be less areas conducive to outdoor physical activities, like playgrounds. High school students are often exposed to more spaces for sitting and socialising, and research shows they can start to develop negative attitudes towards physical education.

Sedentary behaviour also increases during secondary schooling, with a higher proportion of students using electronic devices for longer than the recommended two hours per day for recreation and entertainment.




Read more:
Teenagers who play sport after school are only 7 minutes more active per day than those who don’t


By secondary school, teenagers have had seven years of primary schooling to develop fundamental movement skills, so will require more advanced movement opportunities to test themselves. This can be difficult if schools don’t prioritise facilities to encourage physical activity.

The blocks of recess time for physical activity can be less in secondary school, with guidance for 30 minute periods, compared with an hour for primary. This can vary according to the priorities of each school, particularly when recess time is competing with lessons, time to eat, and other activities.

Health and physical education requires improved status, resources and time allocation across the board.

How can we improve things?

The WHO is aiming to increase the number of young people meeting physical activity guidelines by 15% in 2030. So we need to consider how we can make some positive changes.

A new national physical literacy framework and campaign is a good start.

According to Sport Australia, physical literacy is about more than playing sport – it’s about holistic development.

Here are some other things we should be focusing on:

  1. we need to place more value on recess periods by ensuring there is at least one hour of mandatory recess time scheduled each day for teenagers to be as active as possible. We also need to prioritise quality and accessible facilities for students to test themselves physically (for example, climbing and fitness facilities)

  2. families should dedicate one hour after school each day to turning off electronic devices with the goal of moving more

  3. school teachers should work to identify teenagers’ physical activity interests, levels and needs as they enter secondary school, looking to provide more physical challenges. If facilities are not available, they should plan for and include relevant excursions

  4. schools should encourage more opportunities for safe active transport (travelling to and from school by walking or cycling), organised sport and recreation, student-centred PE classes (promoting choice for more enjoyable activities), and activity opportunities before and after school

  5. during unavoidable and prolonged periods of using digital devices (like during classroom lessons), teachers should provide short bursts of movement tasks for even one minute, such as moving to music

  6. school staff and training teachers should receive professional development for learning about, accommodating and encouraging physical activities within the context of secondary schools (especially beyond scheduled classes)

  7. schools should be engaged with stakeholders such as families and community leaders in a collective effort to improve and model the value of physical activity opportunities in secondary schools.




Read more:
Adapting to secondary school: why the physical environment is important too


Leaders from across sectors need to prioritise the development of physical activity strategies and resources for secondary schools. This is not a new concept, but the findings of this research make it impossible to ignore. Trialled programs or policies that encourage physical activity in secondary schools should now be brought in on a larger scale.The Conversation

Brendon Hyndman, Senior Lecturer in Personal Development, Health & Physical Education / Course Director of Postgraduate Studies in Education, Charles Sturt University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Is social media damaging to children and teens? We asked five experts



They need to have it to fit in, but social media is probably doing teens more harm than good.
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Alexandra Hansen, The Conversation

If you have kids, chances are you’ve worried about their presence on social media.

Who are they talking to? What are they posting? Are they being bullied? Do they spend too much time on it? Do they realise their friends’ lives aren’t as good as they look on Instagram?

We asked five experts if social media is damaging to children and teens.

Four out of five experts said yes

The four experts who ultimately found social media is damaging said so for its negative effects on mental health, disturbances to sleep, cyberbullying, comparing themselves with others, privacy concerns, and body image.

However, they also conceded it can have positive effects in connecting young people with others, and living without it might even be more ostracising.

The dissident voice said it’s not social media itself that’s damaging, but how it’s used.

Here are their detailed responses:


If you have a “yes or no” health question you’d like posed to Five Experts, email your suggestion to: alexandra.hansen@theconversation.edu.au


Karyn Healy is a researcher affiliated with the Parenting and Family Support Centre at The University of Queensland and a psychologist working with schools and families to address bullying. Karyn is co-author of a family intervention for children bullied at school. Karyn is a member of the Queensland Anti-Cyberbullying Committee, but not a spokesperson for this committee; this article presents only her own professional views.The Conversation

Alexandra Hansen, Chief of Staff, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.