SUBJECTS: Coronavirus and schools, Year 12 students, Universities, Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package
Chris Smith: Just before I came on air, I caught up with Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan. Now, late during that term one, we had many Independent schools that simply closed their doors. There are newsletters going out to parents during these holidays already saying that we will continue our online procedures in term two. What’s your message to Independent schools?
Dan Tehan: You can continue that online offering, but you have to have your schools open – for those parents who need to work and can’t look after their children at home, for those vulnerable children where it’s much safer for them to be at school learning. So, what we want from you, is to give parents that choice – that if it’s not safe for their children to be at home alone, or because of vulnerabilities, that they can go to school and get that learning offering at school. Now, it can be the same learning offering if you’re teaching remotely online, then they can come in and do that in a supervised fashion at school. But, they have to be offering parents that choice.
Tehan: Well, we’ve made it a condition of their funding. So, I’ve written today to all Independent schools to say that this is a condition of the funding that you get from the Commonwealth Government.
Smith: Is there any concern within the National Cabinet, amongst education ministers, or even the medics, the deputy chief medical officers, that some of these students who’ve been around, you know, mixing in the community at shopping centres, could be importing the virus back into schools, now that they’ve had a break?
Tehan: So, the advice from the medical expert panel – which is made up of the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer and all state and territory chief medical officers – is that it’s safe for children to go to school. Now, that advice is updated regularly, but it’s been very consistent right through the pandemic, so far – that it’s safe for children to go to school. Now, we continue to seek advice from them on this and other matters, and if that advice changed, then the Government’s position would change. But, that advice has been clear right throughout this pandemic.
Smith: Now, I’m the father of a Year 12 student. I can’t believe they’ve got the rough end of the pineapple here. It’s been a terribly disrupted year, for their most important year. What will, eventually, be decided, and when will it be decided what to do with Year 12 students, and their HSC and equivalent certificates in other states and territories?
Tehan: So, for all Year 12 students, you will get an ATAR for 2020. There will be no Year 13. There will be no mass repeating. All education ministers from right across the nation have said that you will get an ATAR for 2020. So, your dreams of going on to university, going on to vocational education, or into employment, they will be realised. You do this year, you’ll get an ATAR ranking for it, and then you can go and pursue your dreams.
Smith: So, do they still have to sit the exams, and when will they be?
Tehan: So, we’re still looking at that. The curriculum and assessment authorities will report back to Education Council, which is the forum that all state and territory education ministers and the Commonwealth Education Minister comes together in. We’re getting a report back next month on that, and we’ll have more to say on exactly what form that will take after we get that assessment back from those authorities.
Smith: Okay. In the month of May? Alright. What are your thoughts about what the Australian National University have decided today? Basically, saying that we will look at the Year 11 results of those students to determine whether they get placement within that university?
Tehan: Well, we want our universities to be flexible in the way that they put their offerings forward for this year’s Year 12s. ANU have looked at Year 11 as being part of their pre-requisites for quite some time now. Other universities will look at different things. But, overall, the discussions that I’ve had with the universities so far on this is they’re all looking to be flexible to ensure that those Year 12s will be able to go to university next year, if that’s what they want to do.
Smith: Now, as a group, all universities seem to be crying poor at the moment. Will taxpayers have to come to the rescue of universities?
Tehan: We continue to work with the universities. I met with the Universities Australia Board to have further discussions with them. One of the things that we’re looking to do – and I continue to have discussions with them on – is how we can ensure that our domestic students are looked after this year, and the places are there for them next year, because we know there will be extra demand that will come onto our university system as Year 12s enter next year and look to go to university. The workforce might not be as strong as it normally is, so there will be requirements for our universities to help skill our young people next year. So, we want to make sure that they can carry that load forward. So, we continue to have very good discussions, and I’ll have more to say on this in the coming days.
Smith: Okay. Just two quick questions on child care. We’ve seen in the child care sector so much rorting in the last couple of years. All this money that goes in to prop up the child care sector. Can we guarantee that we’re going to get value for our buck, and no one’s going to drain us dry with the rort?
Tehan: So, we’re doing everything we can to ensure that the changes that we made last week, where we’re now offering free child care, that we absolutely focus on getting value for money for the Australian taxpayer, with the money that we’re putting into the child care sector. So, approximately $1.6 billion from the changes that we’ve made will go to the sector, plus about $1 billion in the JobKeeper wages that we will also be providing to the sector. So, we want to make sure that we get value for money for that. And, in particular, that those workers, those essential workers – which, as the Prime Minister defined them, as anyone who’s got a job and helping us dealing with this pandemic – for those vulnerable children who go to child care, and for those who were enrolled in child care, that they’re the priorities going forward, as we deal with this pandemic over the next six months.
Smith: And, you’d be pleased to strike a deal with the New South Wales Government, supporting government, and also local council child care centres. Where are the other states up to in terms of this?
Tehan: Yeah, so, look, I’ve had a good discussion with the Queensland Minister today, and have asked her whether she could have a look at following New South Wales’ lead. I’ve also had a discussion with the South Australian Minister, and asked him whether he could also follow. And, I’ll continue to have those discussions with state and territory government, because it’s incredibly important. Commonwealth is doing its bit when it comes to local government, by paying that 50 per cent. What we’re asking of the states and territories, if they could look after the JobKeeper component. So, we’ll continue to have discussions with states and territories on that. But, can I thank the New South Wales Government for the positive action that they took today to address this issue.
Smith: You’ve got a lot of work still on your plate. Wish you all the best for Easter. Thank you very much for your time.
Tehan: Pleasure Chris. And, happy Easter to you and all your viewers, as well.