SUBJECTS: Coronavirus and schools
Natalie Barr: Well, the Prime Minister has assured parents that classrooms are safe and the best place for kids to learn. Scott Morrison wants his own children to return to school as soon as possible. But, he says parents should listen to state premiers, rather than national leaders, on the issue. It came as the National Cabinet released a set of principles to guide the country’s approach to education during this crisis. They acknowledge that while classroom teaching is preferred, flexible remote lessons may be needed. For more, I’m joined by Education Minister Dan Tehan. Morning to you. Now, New South Wales wants a gradual increase in face-to-face teaching in term 2. Most Victorian students are learning from home. Queensland will continue online learning for the first five weeks back. South Australia will let parents decide. WA is still to make a decision. It is quite a patchwork across this country, isn’t it?
Dan Tehan: It is, Natalie. But, that’s the federation, and every state and territory has jurisdictional responsibility for schools. The important thing that happened yesterday was that we got a set of national principles to govern how we’ll get everyone back to school, how we’ll get our schools open, and that was the most important thing. That reaffirmation that it is so important that classrooms reopen, and we have professional teachers teaching in the classroom. I think that was the key thing that came out of yesterday.
Barr: Minister, I think the problem here, the problem coming to us, is that parents in this country don’t believe that schools are a safe place for their kids right now. What do you say to that?
Tehan: They are, and the medical expert panel has said all along that they are. And, they’ve put some more conditions in place to make sure that they remain safe, including, for instance, encouraging students who are going to school not to take their mobile phones, to make sure that teachers understand that they should limit contact with parents and other teachers, because it’s the spread between adults which is the most danger for our teachers, rather than from children to teachers. Making sure that if the schools go back, for instance, in New South Wales or Victoria, you would limit the exchange between your Year 12s and your Year 7s. All these very sensible suggestions that the medical expert panel has made. So, hopefully, over the next four to six weeks, we can get all our schools reopened, and teachers teaching in the classroom right across the nation.
Barr: Okay. Thank you Minister. We need it. Good luck with that.