SUBJECTS: Coronavirus and schools
Michael Usher: Let’s bring in Education Minister Dan Tehan, now from Parliament House. Minister, thank you so much for joining us this evening. Now, look, around this country today, my best read of it is that, confusion reigns. Do we send our kids to school? Or not?
Dan Tehan: Well, ultimately, each state and territory has jurisdictional responsibility for schools, so there’ll be different arrangements in different states and territories. For instance, Victoria is encouraging parents to keep their children at home if they can. In the Northern Territory, they want their students to be at school, and you’ll to have provide a reason as to why the student isn’t at school.
Usher: Do you need to start getting firm, though, and just have a clear national approach, so that in the states and territories there’s not different opinions? It is confusing parents.
Tehan: Yes, look, and this is what the, why the Prime Minister will be taking something to National Cabinet tomorrow, so we can get a clear approach. Obviously, from a Commonwealth Government point of view, we want to see more schools open for classroom teaching, and, our hope is, in the next three to four weeks, that we’ll see more schools opening right across the nation, going back to classroom teaching.
Usher: But, you can understand that parents need clear direction right now, don’t you?
Tehan: Absolutely. And, that’s why the Prime Minister, through National Cabinet, will be attempting to give that clear direction after National Cabinet meets tomorrow morning. There’ll be a set of principles which will be taken to National Cabinet, and we want all state and territory leaders to endorse those principles, so we start to give a clear message to all parents about how we want schooling to look like in the next month, in the next four to six weeks.
Usher: Let me give you one example: A full-time working mum has three children in primary school, she’s working from home full-time, on busy calls, conference calls, back-to-back. She’s trying to educate three kids in the home, as well. She feels guilty about sending her kids back into the classroom, because the message has been, unless you’re an essential worker, don’t send your kids. Help that mother and what she should do, please?
Tehan: She shouldn’t feel guilty. As the Prime Minister has said, every worker who’s helping us get through this pandemic is an essential worker. So, that is what we are hoping will be the nationally consistent approach across the country.
Usher: Alright. So, you’ve given us a bit of hope tonight, as parents. You’re saying tomorrow we might have some very clear direction from the Prime Minister and, out of National Cabinet, that there’ll be a unified approach?
Tehan: Absolutely, Michael. That is our aim. The Prime Minister’s been passionate about this. This pandemic’s going to take a lot from us, but he does not want it to take away the education from our children. And, so, we’re going to continue to push, and our hope is that we’ll get a nationally consistent set of priorities out of National Cabinet tomorrow.
Usher: And, that is going to mean getting all of the states on board with their medical advice? We had the Victorian Chief Health Officer, only this afternoon, saying that it still wasn’t safe to send a million kids back into the classrooms. But, that’s against all the other medical advice?
Tehan: That’s right. The medical expert panel is saying it is safe for children to go to school. And, so, what we’ve got to look at now, is, okay, how can we move, especially in Victoria and New South Wales, from a position where the majority of learning is being done at home, how can we basically transition to get back to the predominant learning taking place in the classroom?
Usher: Alright. Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan. Thanks for joining us.
Tehan: Pleasure, Michael.