Dan Tehan directs private schools to open, makes it a condition of funding

The minister says the schools need to have classroom options for students who can't be looked after safely at home.

9/04/2020 10:10:00 AM

Education Minister Dan Tehan has compelled private schools to open in term two for children who need supervision during the COVID-19 crisis, issuing a binding legal directive tied to their funding | fergushunter

The minister says the schools need to have classroom options for students who can't be looked after safely at home.

Very large text sizeEducation Minister Dan Tehan has compelled private schools to open in term two for children who need supervision during the COVID-19 crisis, issuing a binding legal directive tied to their funding.The directive comes as federal, state and territory governments weigh up options for a staggered return to more normal school operations, which could see year 12 students and those in more hands-on subjects returning to campuses for some sessions.

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Education Minister Dan Tehan has directed private schools to be open.Credit:Alex EllinghausenWhile most schools have been maintaining classroom options for children of essential services workers in addition their rollout of distance learning, Mr Tehan has written to independent school peak bodies highlighting a "small number" that have closed their campuses entirely.

"While I appreciate that a number of jurisdictions are moving towards this form of service delivery, I am asking schools to retain a physical classroom environment for the children of parents who may not have a choice of keeping children at home," Mr Tehan wrote.

AdvertisementHe said the students might be children of essential workers but added pupils should "not be refused physical classroom access based on their parent's employment".LoadingUnder federal legislation, Mr Tehan has the authority to sign off on additional conditions on funding for private schools.

He said he was using this power to include a condition starting from term two "requiring schools to provide a physical classroom education environment for the children of parents who choose to access it".Mr Tehan told reporters on Thursday he wanted schools to be open for safety reasons.

"We want them open so children can be safely cared for if their parents are working or if there are other reasons where children are much more safe at school rather than at home," he said.While the federal government has maintained the official medical advice is that schools should be open and children should attend, state governments have been taking different approaches. The NSW and Victorian government have been encouraging parents to keep their children at home.

Mr Tehan said the NSW and Victorian decisions reflected the greater spread of COVID-19 in the states. Those governments have also faced pressure from teachers' unions over the risk to staff, especially those in vulnerable demographics.Mr Tehan said education ministers were looking at options to make school systems more flexible and open for some students.

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"Is there an opportunity maybe to bring year 12 students back one day a week? Or would there be an opportunity for those doing vocational education at school to do some of their practical work at school? Or chemistry students - would they be able to come to school one or two afternoons a week to do the practical side of their chemistry?"

LoadingVictorian students are scheduled to return to school on April 14 under an online learning model. NSW students are due to return on April 27.Attendance, which plummeted in March, could rise after the holidays. Medical officials are looking at how to make schools safer, with bolstered hygiene and social distancing measures.

The NSW Teachers Federation has suggested a staged return to schools once health authorities and governments agreed to begin lifting social distancing restrictions, beginning with year 12 and kindergarten."I've advanced a proposition that part of an orderly [process], we could consider a return of year 12 and kindergarten, followed by year seven and year six, and progressively pad that out," said federation president Angelo Gavrielatos.

He said any return would need to ensure maximum health protections and adequate resources for hygiene measures.With Jordan BakerSign up to our Coronavirus Update newsletterGet our Coronavirus Update newsletter for the day's crucial developments at a glance, the numbers you need to know and what our readers are saying. Sign up to

Read more: The Sydney Morning Herald »

fergushunter They have a choice. However, Every public school in NSW remained open everyday of term 1. We will have your money DanTehanWannon We will be back Term 2, serving our communities. No questions asked. It is moral imperative. Do you need to rethink yours? NSWSPC fergushunter Just nationalise all education already. We teachers (my school anyway) don't get paid any more than Gov school yet are expected to put ourselves at risk? How about some danger money for everyone having to work on the front line? Nurses, supermarket workers, anyone F2F.

fergushunter All the uncertainty creating so much EXTRA stress for already stressed HSC students. Get some maracas and cancel the HSC actual exams. Go by assessments. Like they did in the UK. Nobody is actually mentioning the E word. EXAMS. Be fair! fergushunter Good decision Dan the Man ☑️ fergushunter Ouch! They just discovered all that public money for swimming pools comes with some strings attached.

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