SUBJECTS: Education Council, Coronavirus and schools, Year 12 students
Dan Tehan: Thanks very much for coming this afternoon. Can I just start by thanking all state and territory education ministers. They’ve been working with me now for nearly two years. We’ve got to know each other extremely well, and, especially since COVID-19 has struck, all education ministers, no matter of what political persuasion, have put the national interest first. We’ve just had a very productive meeting an hour ago, where there was unanimous sentiment that what we needed to do was really make Year 12s our priority, and send them a clear signal. So, the message out of Education Council today is very clear. There will be no Year 13. There will be no mass repeating. Every student will get an ATAR certificate for 2020, so they can go to university, so they can go to vocational education, so they can go on to employment, next year. That was the strongly endorsed position of all state and territory education ministers. Now, when it comes to how the ATAR will be calculated and assessed, the Commonwealth is going to do further work with the university sector, with the vocational education sector, and we’ll come back to Education Council in May. But, ultimately, each state and territory, as is their jurisdictional responsibility, will look at what the assessment process will look like for their individual state and territory. But, the message we wanted to send was a loud and clear one. For all those Year 12 students out there, for all those parents out there, there will be no Year 13. There will be no mass repeating. You will get your leaving certificate this year, and you will be able to go on to university, on to vocational education, and into work. Thanks very much.
Journalist: Are you expecting their ATAR scores to be affected by this?
Tehan: So, what we all are going to endeavour to do is to make sure that this year’s ATAR scores are the same as last year’s ATAR scores. But, we will take into account those students who have to learn from home, those who might not be able to access the technology like others do. So, all those normal requirements will be put in place. But, we want this year’s ATAR score to look like last year’s ATAR score, and there is no reason why we can’t do that.
Journalist: It’s one thing to get secondary students studying online, but what about the primary school and prep kids? How do you teach four and five-year-olds remotely?
Tehan: So, obviously, there are challenges when it comes to primary school. But, all teachers are being given the resources to be able to teach at whatever level – whether it be prep right through to Year 12 – they’re getting the professional development tools that they need. Now, some of this is going to put extra requirements on teachers. It’s going to require parents to be patient. But, everyone is committed to make sure that as much learning as possibly can will take place this year. COVID-19 is going to take a lot from us. But, everyone is determined that it won’t take education away from our children.
Journalist: Do you expect most, if not all, of term 2 to be done remotely?
Tehan: So, different states and territories will have a different approach to term two. We’ve seen announcements made by Victoria today. But, in the NT, classrooms will remain open, and schooling will be as normal. South Australia and Western Australia are looking at their circumstances, and will have things to say about what they’re offering in term two will look like. And, that is the responsibility of states and territories, to understand what the pandemic looks like within their jurisdiction, and to set the arrangements according to that.
Journalist: Any plan to hand out PPE for teachers who do have to return to the classroom?
Tehan: So, we will continue to take the advice of the medical expert panel. That’s made up of the Commonwealth Medical Officer, the state and territory medical officers. They continue to provide direction to the National Cabinet on whether schools should be open or not, and the clear directive at the moment is it’s safe for schools to be open. And, they’re also looking at what requirements we should be putting in place to keep teachers safe, and we’ll continue to take their advice on that.
Journalist: Do you think we’ll have a situation where teachers are wearing masks in class?
Tehan: So, there is no requirements, and there has been no directive on that front. At the moment, the directive is quite clear. It’s safe for kids to be at school. And, also, it’s safe for teachers to be there teaching those children, with all the normal requirements taken into account.
Journalist: Is there any difference of opinion between the different states?
Tehan: We’ve been working incredibly closely together now for nearly two years, and the sense of purpose and the sense of trying to get that nationally consistent approach was there for all to see at today’s meeting. And, can I, once again, thank all my state and territory colleagues, all the education ministers, for the very cooperative way they continue not only to engage with the Commonwealth, but engage with each other. Thanks, everyone.