Release type: Transcript


Interview with Sandy Aloisi, ABC NewsRadio Breakfast


The Hon Dan Tehan MP
Minister for Education

Subjects: Coronavirus and schools, Year 12 students

Aloisi: Education ministers from around the country will meet today to discuss how students can continue their education in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic. It’s a particularly difficult time for HSC students, who are unsure just how their school year will pan out and how they’ll achieve a score to allow them to undertake tertiary studies. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has already said that Year 12 students studying to get an ATAR score may have their school year extended into 2021. So, what options are being considered? We’re joined now by the Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan. Mr Tehan, good morning. Thanks for joining us.

Tehan: A pleasure.

Aloisi: Well, it’s a particularly difficult time for students, but when you think about the HSC, it’s really tough on them, with a lot of anxiety, I would imagine. What will the ministers be considering today?

Tehan: What we’ll be considering today is what curriculum and assessment will look like for Year 12s this year, in particular, having a look at what will be the pathways for Year 12s into university, into vocational education, into employment, next year. Now, every state and territory has a curriculum and assessment authority. They will be providing a report to education ministers so we can look at that. And, it has now been decided that not only will we meet today, but we will also meet on Thursday, to look and assess this, given the importance of it for Year 12s and the need to be able to get a nationally consistent message as far as possible. So, it’s been decided that we’re not only going to meet today, but we’ll meet on Thursday, as well.

Aloisi: And, would one of the options be the suggestion from Daniel Andrews that it could be that Year 12 students have to study, perhaps, through the Christmas holidays, as they would normally be?

Tehan: So, look, that was one of the suggestions that was put forward. I think it’s very much an outlier in terms of what we’ll be looking at. It’ll be a worst-case scenario. What I think most education ministers are determined to do is to put in place practices which would see Year 12s complete the year of schooling this year. It might mean we need to push into November and December, but the hope of education ministers is that we will be able to see our Year 12s complete their schooling this year.

Aloisi: And, what about schools, generally? I mean, most students in schools around the country are on their Easter holiday break at the moment. What’s going to happen at the beginning of next term?

Tehan: Well, all states and territories are also considering that, and working with the Commonwealth once again to see if we can get a nationally consistent approach. Schooling will look different for term two. It’s more than likely that the majority of students will be studying at home, but for those who need their children looked after, for those who need their children educated at school, that schools will remain open for those children. So, each state and territory will have their own positions on this. But, the nationally consistent approach is that we want all those students who need to be able to go to school – where they’re vulnerable children, where they’re children of essential workers; the Prime Minister has been very clear that all workers who are working are seen as essential at this time – that they will be able to go to school to get that supervised care that they need, so they’re not, they’re not unsupervised at home.

Aloisi: So, Minister, what do you say to parents who question why it’s not a thing to go to supermarkets and perhaps get too close to people, to have their children attend a school?

Tehan: What I would say is that all governments, including the Commonwealth Government, are listening to the very best medical advice when it comes to the practices that we’re putting in place. And, that medical advice, which is provided to governments by that medical expert panel, says that it is safe to send your children to school. Now, we get updates regularly on that advice, and that advice is made public. It is very clear, when it comes to schools and when it comes to child care, the advice at the moment is that it’s safe to send your children to school. And, that’s why the Government continues to put in place practices which enable students still to be able to attend school.

Aloisi: But, from what you’re saying, home schooling is probably going to continue into term two. Do you envisage that will continue past that term?

Tehan: Well, obviously, the, what we’re seeing with the pandemic at the moment, and the level of the spread, we always have said that we think it will take us six months to get through this pandemic. But, we continue, obviously, to watch and monitor that. Definitely for the start of term two, what we’re going to see is school is going to be very different for most students.

Aloisi: And, what are universities telling you about the score needed by HSC students to get into tertiary education? Are they looking at ways, perhaps, that they might have a review of that system, given what’s going on at the moment?

Tehan: Well, the ATAR system has always been able to be adjusted for regions that have been hit by fire or drought or flood. It’s been adjusted when students are ill. So, there is no reason why we can’t have a national adjustment to take into account the pandemic. And, universities also always have measures in place to be able to assist students who might have had difficulties, for one reason or another, throughout a year, to be able to access university. So, I’ve had discussions with the university sector. They understand the pressures that the pandemic is putting on Year 12 students, and they are looking at ways to make sure that those Year 12 students, whose dreams are to go to university, will be realised.

Aloisi: And, Minister, just finally, on a personal note. What do you say to parents who, perhaps, are really concerned about their kids’ education this year – worried that home schooling really doesn’t quite replace the classroom set up that we’re normally used to? What do you say to those parents who really have concerns about that?

Tehan: Every education minister wants to do everything that’s possible to ensure that every student, including all our Year 12 students, get the very best education they possibly can this year. The Prime Minister has made it very clear – the pandemic might take a lot from us, but he doesn’t want it to take away our children’s education. And, that is what we’re all operating to try and achieve to the best we can – to ensure that education continues, and we are able to provide for our children the best knowledge, the best learning environment, that we possibly can this year.

Aloisi: Yeah. Tough time. Minister, thank you so much for joining us.

Tehan: Pleasure.

Aloisi: Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan there.