📓 Education, Coronavirus and the Australian Government

Scott Morrison urges teachers to open schools amid coronavirus so parents can put ‘food on the table’

Cameron Malcher responds to Morrison’s ‘plead’ for teachers to reopen. He highlights that schools as such have never shut, focusing on ‘heroes’ avoids on the government bodies who actually make the decisions.

The point is that is any Australian family who finds themselves in a position of having to choose between their employment and their child’s education is in that situation, in no small part, because of the specific approach to stimulus and economic support that the PM has chosen. (link)

Like with the wartime rhetoric, he appears to be shifting responsibility to a group in society with less power than himself (teachers) for any difficulty faced by Australians, despite the fact those difficulties could have been directly alleviated by the PM/govt.(link)

Also, I want to point out what an odd notion it is that families would have to choose between employment and education. First, as schools are open to students, no parent has to make that choice. Second, that choice would only arise if a child can’t go to school…(link)

For Malcher, this is not about ‘teachers’ but a message to the Victorian government.

The conflict between the Federal LNP govt. and the Victorian Labor govt. has been at the fore of the national COVID-19 response. Victoria, where term 1 ended earlier, closed schools early by bringing forward and extending schools holidays while strategies were developed

This Victorian action happened at a time when the PM was talking about keeping schools open. Though even the LNP Pemiere of NSW was, at the time, talking about implementing stricter measures that Fed govt. requirements – the tension between state and feds was evident. (link)

Jane Caro questions why educators need the guilt trip when schools are open and teachers are going above and beyond.

That’s a hell of a responsibility to be laying at your average teacher’s feet. And, as the elected leader of our country, is it really fair of him to hold teachers responsible for the economy? Is it reasonable to ask them to choose between their own health and that of their families and keeping the engine of commerce alive?

Gillian Light provides two responses to Morrison’s appeal to teachers. Firstly, that as a teacher it is not her decision about whether to return to school or not. Secondly, schools in Victoria have never actually closed

The most important reason I won’t tell you whether I think schools should be open or closed is because it doesn’t matter – it’s not my decision. I’m an employee of a state Education Department and I do what I’m told. I was told, at the end of Term 1, to prepare for the possibility of remote teaching. So I did. And continued to prepare during school holidays. At the end of the holidays, I was told to begin remotely teaching my students which I’m now doing to the best of my ability. I’ve worked harder in this last 2 weeks than I ever have before, something I didn’t actually think possible. I was also asked if I was willing and able to go on a roster to supervise children of those who are unable to work from home (while continuing to remotely teach the rest) which I have also done and continue to do.

Some suggest that this is all a form of gaslighting, while others like Paul Kelly speaking on the Coronacast podcast suggest that schools are more controllable:

Norman Swan: So Keli asks, on schools, why are we reopening schools when social distance is so important? And I suppose the add-on to Kelly’s question I’d ask is, well, how do you socially distance when you’ve got 14-year-olds in the playground?

Paul Kelly: Very difficult. And I understand that. In fact two of my sisters are teachers, one of them currently working as the schools come back in New South Wales. So of course these things are challenging, and I think the point is you can do is best you can in terms of social distancing. There is certainly a lot you can do about hygiene around the school.

Tegan Taylor: Why can kids go to school but they are not allowed to play on public playgrounds?

Paul Kelly: Well, that’s a challenge, some of these things I can certainly see how it is difficult to maintain those two conflicting pieces of advice. I’d say this though, at least in schools we do know who is on the school playground and there is some ability within the school environment to increase those hygiene messages and cleaning, for example. Public playgrounds are a bit less of a controlled environment, more open to others coming in, so I think that’s part of it. But look, I think as we go forward, we’ve been so successful in dampening down the curve, flattening the curve and so few cases that in the next month we will be seeing the relaxation of many of those things that have been introduced.

Above all else, Jordan Baker highlights the stress that the federal – state divide in education has created throughout this crisis.

For Piccoli, COVID-19 has provided yet another argument for Australia following the lead of Canada, and dumping the federal education ministry altogether – a proposal also outlined by former Coalition opposition leader John Hewson last week. “In Canada, the provinces run their own systems, and to me that kind of competitive federalism is most effective,” says Piccoli. “Each jurisdiction learns off the other ones, from their successes and failures.

“When you try to standardise things, in education or anywhere else, I don’t think it works as well. NSW had a basic skills test, and the other states wanted to do the same thing, so they made it national [in the form of NAPLAN]. But once it’s national, you can’t change it. National bodies should set a strategy, and state regulators should be responsible for the implementation of that strategy.”

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