SUBJECTS: Coronavirus and schools, Year 12 students
Richard Wilkins: Well, school’s out. We’re all cracking down on Easter travel, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed that we are flattening the curve. It’s been a busy week, as more information, rules and regulations come into play. So, what do you really need to know about COVID-19 this Sunday? We’ve pulled together a panel of experts. Joining us now, Education Minister Dan Tehan in Canberra, to answer all of our questions about term 2. Also in the nation’s capital, global health security expert Adam Kamradt-Scott with the latest on transmission and testing. Nine political reporter Chris O’Keefe is in Sydney to talk state and federal politics. And, senior research fellow and clinical psychologist Dr Carly Johnco is also in Sydney to explain how to cope with confinement. Thank you all for joining us. We have viewer questions. The first one is to you, Minister Tehan. Danielle wants to know if there’s any chance of her daughter going back to school in term 2.
Dan Tehan: Well, my hope is that, yes, but, it will depend on the state or the territory. At the moment, we have some territories and states where school will be going back. The Northern Territory, Western Australia will have their classrooms open, and students will be able to attend at school. In New South Wales, Victoria, it’s different there. They’re encouraging students to stay and learn at home, if they can. But, what we do have right across the nation, is a set of national priorities that we want all states and territories to abide by. And, that is that, if you cannot study safely at home, might be because your parents are working or for those vulnerable children who can’t be looked after safely at home, we want schools to be open, so that those students can attend. So, each state and territory will have a different approach. But, if your parents are working and you need to go to school, schools will be open for you. Or, for those vulnerable children, they’ll be able to attend, as well, to make sure that they get the study that they need.
Wilkins: Okay. There you go, Danielle. Staying with you, Minister. Elka asks, ‘What about our rural and remote students? Many of these students didn’t have access to reliable Internet prior to these changes.’ Tough for them.
Tehan: Yeah, look, that’s a really good question. And, as someone who represents a rural electorate in Western Victoria, I know that Internet connection can be an issue for communities. So, this is something that all school systems will take into account, and, especially when it comes to those students doing their final, their Year 12 study, this year. When your final ATAR is adjusted, if you haven’t been able to access the Internet and get the same type of learning that your city students might have been getting, then your ATAR will be adjusted accordingly. So, all these things will be taken into account, and it shows, once again, why it’s so important that we continue to roll the NBN out, and make sure that we get that digital connectivity right across our nation.
Wilkins: That is very true. So, there’s going to be a bit of leniency involved there. On that note, will a more structured universal approach to online learning be introduced next term? Do you see that?
Tehan: Well, I think we’ve made leaps and bounds when it comes to providing online learning. But, ultimately, in the end, because states and territories have the individual jurisdictional responsibility for schooling in their states and territories, this will depend. I mean, our hope is that if we can keep flattening the curve, and this would be my dream, that we could start getting all students back to school. And, look, if we could start, for instance, in getting our Year 12s back to school as the term progresses, that would just be a wonderful outcome for our nation. Because, this pandemic’s going to take a lot from us, but if we can ensure that all our children can still get a year’s learning and a year’s knowledge, that would just be a wonderful outcome for our nation.
Wilkins: Yeah, very difficult for those studying in Year 12.