Discussions with Minister for Education – Lessons from COVID-19

During the Christian Schools National Policy Forum Livestream CSA’s Director of Public Policy, Mark Spencer, discussed with the Commonwealth Minister for Education, Dan Tehan, what lessons we can draw from the COVID-19 experience.

While the full transcript is available for schools below two key issues were discussed –

Blended / Online Education

We put to the Minister that there were a number of regulatory impediments, such as the definitions around full-time and part-time students in the Census, that inhibited the ongoing use of some of the approaches to education utilised when responding to COVID-19.

The Minister indicated that “once we’ve done the research and once we’ve had a really good look at our experience from online learning during the pandemic then we do need to look at those regulatory requirements and see whether they do need some change”, going on to say (emphasis added) that “I think it’s going to be really important for schools right across the board to make sure that they provide the evidence that they have on where they see the benefits of online learning and where potentially they see negative aspects so that then we can mould out a regulatory environment going forward.”

We are asking schools to reflect on their experiences during the COVID-19 period and provide us with any evidence you have about the benefits on online or blended learning.  This could be in the form of assessment data that might show improvements for particular students, feedback from staff about the benefits they have observed or case studies on the impact on individual students.

Funding for Online / Distance Education Students

Given the wide experience of the costs associated with the provision of high quality online learning across many schools during the COVID-19 period we asked the Minister about the future of the artificial cap on the base funding for DE students.

Once again, the Minister invited evidence to be provided on this issue –

“So look as I’ve mentioned previously, what we I think first we need to do is have a look and get the lessons that we’ve learned and we can then begin to look at some of these requirements, … 

So we’ve put record funding in place for school systems so it’s just a matter of us now beginning to look and see, OK well are those settings in the right place and do we need, do we need to look at ok how do we adjust, if it is desirable and schools can point to serious evidence that doing more remotely, doing more online will lead to beneficial educational outcomes and ultimately in the end that’s going to be the thing which will determine the policy decisions that we make is OK, will these adjustments, will these changes lead to better educational outcomes because ultimately in the end that is what we are all looking for.”

The door is open again for schools to provide “serious evidence” of the benefits of online education for educational outcomes to provide the basis for changes to the funding arrangements in this area. We would welcome this data from schools to assist us in making even stronger submissions supporting change.

A copy of the full transcript of the discussion is available below –

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