The Education Minister, Dan Tehan, this afternoon has indicated that he will be making a declaration of an addition funding requirement in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The declaration, copy here, requires Christian and other independent schools –
“from the published commencement of Term 2, not stand down the delivery of education at a school solely in response to COVID19 related concerns unless doing so is compliant with the advice, instructions or direction of the health or education authorities of the Commonwealth or the State or Territory in which the school is located, and the approved authority has acted genuinely and in good faith in discharge of its duties of care to students, employees and others.”
It then defined the “act of standing down” as including, but not limited to:
- not delivering or providing school education at a location of a school for which you are approved under the Australian Education Act 2013, or
- altering school holidays unless otherwise approved or authorised by law.
In making the declaration the Minister indicated that he was aware that a small number of independent schools have chosen to stand down all physical classroom delivery and move to alternative, or online classroom delivery. While acknowledging that a number of jurisdictions are moving towards this form of service delivery, the declaration seeks to ensure that independent schools retain a physical classroom environment for the children of parents who may not have a choice of keeping children at home. The Minister indicated that these might be “the children of essential front line workers such as paramedics, nurses, doctors and police officers who, in the absence of a classroom option, are forced to make the decision to stop working in our essential services”.
While this condition is being introduced for all independent non-government schools, the Minister does indicated that it is imperative that schools follow the advice of the health or education authorities of the Commonwealth or the state or territory in which the school is located, including any directions they may issue in regard to school shut downs.
We understand that the requirement does NOT mean that schools need to deliver separate classroom based programs for students attending at the school site – they are able to have the students at the school undertake the same alternative delivery education program that is being delivered to those students engaging remotely.
You can view the Minister’s interview this afternoon on SkyNews here.
Further details are alos provided in the COVID-19 Condition on Approval factsheet.