The challenges of COVID-19 require all of us to make difficult decisions, especially in relation to the education of our children.
I thank every parent, every Premier, every education minister and every teacher for doing their best to ensure we keep children safe, and ensure they are getting the schooling they need to succeed.
All Premiers and Chief Ministers are seeking to make balanced judgements, in the best interests of their state or territory, on the basis of the advice they have available to them. Together with the Prime Minister they are working together through the National Cabinet to achieve as much consistency and consensus as possible.
It is important to note that this will not always result in all States and Territories and the Federal Government agreeing on all points.
This has been the case in relation to the issue of children being able to return to school. The consistent advice from the expert medical panel, the Australian Health Principles Protection Committee (AHPPC), comprising all state and territory chief health officers and the Federal Chief Medical Officers has been that schools can be fully open.
Notwithstanding this position, the Victorian Chief Health Officer has provided more cautious advice to the Victorian Premier, who has been acting on this advice in relation to Victorian state schools.
Like many of my colleagues - state and federal, no matter their political party - I have heard countless stories of families struggling to cope with juggling remote learning and remote working, as well as children in vulnerable circumstances suffering because of the situation the COVID pandemic has created.
No one wants a situation where students are missing out on their education based on where they live or what school they go to. The academic research tells us that the remote learning arrangements have the potential to result in poorer educational outcomes for up to half of Australian primary and secondary students if continued for an extended period, in particular the vulnerable, poor, remote and Indigenous students who suffer the most.
It was those examples I was thinking of this morning during my interview on Insiders when I expressed my personal frustration that more schools weren’t starting more in-class learning in my home state.
It was this frustration that led me to overstep the mark in questioning Premier Andrews' leadership on this matter and I withdraw.
As Education Minister it is my job to take a national view of education and do everything possible to ensure our children are getting the best possible opportunities. I will continue working constructively with my state counterparts as they run their state school systems to support them with the best medical and education expert advice the federal government can offer.
In relation to non-state schools the Federal Government will implement our funding policy consistent with the expert medical advice from our Chief Medical Officer that encourages non-state schools to restart in-class education. This initiative was flagged by the Prime Minister to National Cabinet on April 16, and all States and Territories were alerted to the implementation of this initiative prior to its public announcement,
The initiative is also fully consistent with the National Education principles developed based on expert medical advice from that National Cabinet agreed highlight the primacy of in-class education, and that non-government schools are responsible for managing and making operational decisions for their school systems respectively, subject to compliance with relevant funding agreements with the Commonwealth.