SUBJECTS: Coronavirus and schools, Year 12 students
Deborah Knight: It is the great debate all around the country: Should parents send their kids to school after the Easter holidays? There’s still a lot of confusion, and families aren’t clear on what they should be doing. Dan Tehan is the Federal Education Minister. I spoke to him a short time ago from Canberra. Well, Minister, thanks so much for joining us.
Dan Tehan: Pleasure.
Knight: So, what should parents be doing when term two kicks off? Are kids expected back at school?
Tehan: So, it’s going to depend, ultimately, on what each jurisdiction does. So, for Victoria and New South Wales, for instance, they are encouraging parents, if they can keep their children home in a safe environment, they should do so. In the Northern Territory, they have just announced today they want all kids back at school, and it’s only those parents who, for one reason or another can’t send their kids to school, they need to get permission not to send them from the Northern Territory Government. Western Australia, we’ll hear from soon, as to the arrangements they will put in place. But, they are very keen to have an in classroom offering for students there. And, we’ll hear from South Australia. Tasmania, it will be learning from home. But, school is open for those parents who need to work, or for vulnerable children, so they can attend school. And, for Queensland, we will hear soon what arrangements they will put in place.
Knight: So, you can understand why there is so much confusion for parents, because a lot of them have been sending their kids to school, some have been getting pressure from principals to keep them at home, even though they are being told that they are open. Teachers are worried about their own safety. Schools, they aren’t on the same page here, as a lot of the official advice.
Tehan: So, we live in a federation, and every state and territory has the jurisdictional responsibility for their schools …
Knight: … No, I understand that. But, nonetheless, parents are still being told something different to the authorities in their individual states. A lot of parents are being told the school’s open, they send their kids along, and the parents say to them, ‘Look you should have them at home.’ What do they do?
Tehan: So, all state and territory education ministers met on Monday, and we agreed on some national principles, and they went to National Cabinet today. Those national principles, at heart, say that for parents, working parents, who can’t keep their children at home safely, for vulnerable children, they should be able to send their children to school, and to able to get a learning offering in the classroom at school. That is the nationally consistent approach. Now, each state and territory will have their own requirements within that. But, if you’re parents, and you’re both working, then you should be able to have your child attend school in a safe environment, and to be able to do, get the learning and the knowledge they need in that environment. If you’re a parent, and you’re worried that your child can’t be safely looked after at home, then you should be able to send your child to school. And, that’s the nationally consistent approach – which is backed up by the medical expert panel which advises the Federal Government, the state and territory governments – it is safe to send your kids to school.
Knight: Well, that needs to get through to a lot of the principals, because that is not what a lot of parents are being told. But, what about Year 12 students? Because, you’ve said they won’t have to repeat a year, a dreaded Year 13. But, should we scrap the end of year exams altogether, or consider it? Do what the ANU is doing, base the university places on results from last year?
Tehan: So, a very clear message: There will be no Year 13. There will be no mass repeating. Every student will get an ATAR for 2020. All state and territory education ministers agreed that on Monday. Now, exactly what the ATAR assessment will look like, we’re getting further advice from the curriculum and assessment authorities. That will come to Education Council, which is where all of us join together to make these decisions next month, and we will be able to provide further information to Year 12 students about that.
Knight: And, you’re not just talking about this. You’re living it. You’ve got five children. What are you and your wife Sarah doing?
Tehan: So, look, we’ve had them at school up until the holidays. They had some pupil free days in the lead up to the holidays, and, I must say, they were keen, at first, for those pupil free days, and learning online from home. But, now they are missing their friends, and they are actually keen to get back to school and see their friends. They are missing that face-to-face teacher in classroom. So, my hope, and I’m sure it is the hope of parent’s right across Australia, is that we can get schools up and running and operating as normal. Because, I think all of us have an even further and greater respect for the roles that teachers play in our children’s lives.
Knight: Absolutely. Here, here. Teachers are tops, that’s for sure.
Tehan: They are.
Knight: Minister, thanks so much for joining us.