SUBJECTS: Coronavirus and schools, Year 12 students
Natalie Barr: Joining me now is the Education Minister Dan Tehan, from Canberra. Minister, morning to you. Now, you’ve promised that all Year 12 students will graduate this year. How will schools ensure this happens? Will you extend the weeks into November and December?
Dan Tehan: Morning, Nat. And, yes, look, what wonderful news for Year 12 students and their parents from yesterday’s meeting of all state and territory education ministers. There’ll be no Year 13. There’ll be, there will be no mass repeating. Everyone will get an ATAR for 2020. Now, it might entail pushing the year into November and December. Each state and territory will, ultimately, make those decisions depending on the jurisdictional outcomes of the pandemic. And, we have to understand, for instance, in the NT, at this stage, schools are planned to be open for term two. Now, obviously in Victoria and New South Wales it’s different. So, each state and territory are adapting according to where the spread of the pandemic is at in their jurisdictions. But, clear direction from all education ministers – all Year 12 students will get an ATAR for this year.
Barr: Okay. Let’s talk about other year levels, because you’ve got a lot of kids sitting at home. I talked to a teacher yesterday who said some kids are logging in in the morning, and then they don’t see them for the rest of the day. And, you’ve got parents struggling to cope with this online learning. What can you do about that?
Tehan: Yeah. Yeah, look, it’s a real challenge, and we’re all going to have to be patient. Parents are going to have to listen to the advice of the teachers, of the principals, and we’re going to have to make sure that we’re saying to our children, ‘It’s so, so important that they get this year’s education.’ COVID-19’s going to take a lot away from us this year, but we don’t want it to take our children’s education away. So, we’re going to have to work with our children, teachers are getting the professional development support that they need from the states and territories, and we’re just going to have to work with our schools to make sure that we can get our children learning to the best of their ability, given everything that’s going on.
Barr: So, we’ve heard that this new plan, I think, coming out of Victoria, where there’ll be reduced number of hours that kids have to log in for, maybe a couple of hours for primary school students. Could you talk us through those new plans that are coming out of some of the states?
Tehan: Yeah. So, that, for Victoria, they’re putting in their own specific arrangements. It’ll differ for primary school to secondary school, and each jurisdiction is looking at their arrangements. And, a lot of it is being determined by the spread of the pandemic – where that’s at with each state and territory. As I’ve said, Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory, are looking at different arrangements, as well. So, what we’re going to have is a nationally consistent approach, whereby there’s a clear commitment from all states and territories: If your parents are working and your children can’t be supervised at home, then school will be open for you. That’s a nationally consistent message. We also want that for vulnerable children. But, each state and territory are then putting in their own jurisdictional response as to what term two will look like.
Barr: Okay. It is a minefield. Good luck. Thank you very much, Minister.