Federal Government Education Minister Dan Tehan has committed to working his state counterparts on school closures and openings, as the Federal Government had brought $3 billion in funding forward to get Independent and Catholic schools to reopen their classrooms.
Speaking to Insiders, Mr Tehan said 1500 had taken up the offer as at May 3, with 70 per cent of those from Independent schools right across the nation.
In a statement, he reiterated the Federal Government’s position from an expert medical panel, the Australian Health Principles Protection Committee (AHPPC), comprising all state and territory chief health officers and the Federal Chief Medical Officers that schools can remain open.
“Notwithstanding this position, the Victorian Chief Health Officer has provided more cautious advice to the Victorian Premier, who has been acting on this advice in relation to Victorian state schools,” he said.
“Like many of my colleagues – state and federal, no matter their political party – I have heard countless stories of families struggling to cope with juggling remote learning and remote working, as well as children in vulnerable circumstances suffering because of the situation the COVID pandemic has created.”
He said that no one wants a situation where students are missing out on their education based on where they live or what school they go to.
“The academic research tells us that the remote learning arrangements have the potential to result in poorer educational outcomes for up to half of Australian primary and secondary students if continued for an extended period, in particular the vulnerable, poor, remote and Indigenous students who suffer the most.”
“As Education Minister it is my job to take a national view of education and do everything possible to ensure our children are getting the best possible opportunities. I will continue working constructively with my state counterparts as they run their state school systems to support them with the best medical and education expert advice the federal government can offer.”
As of this week, multiple states have announced schools will be learning in classrooms again, including Victoria, which returns on June 9.
Minister Tehan last week also welcomed Queensland, Tasmania and ACT announcements that students would return to classroom learning.
“Today’s announcement that Queensland students will return to classroom learning is fantastic news for students, teachers, parents and principals,” Mr Tehan said.
“It is particularly good news for vulnerable, poor, remote and Indigenous students because they are the ones whose education suffers the most from remote learning.”
He said Queensland has developed a plan that will see all year levels return to the classroom over a period of time and sets out sensible arrangements for students, teachers and parents to enable this to happen. Similar sentiments were expressed for the other two states.