State refuses to play ball on school return date
HOME schooling is "not working too well'' for parents working from home, the Prime Minister declared yesterday as he called for all kids to get back to class.
Scott Morrison said schools could help save the economy by reopening classrooms for all students, so working parents can be "productive''.
"I'm sure you'd know that if you're a parent … trying to work from home and you've also got the kids at home, and they're trying to learn, it's not working too well for you,'' he said.
"And your productivity isn't doing too well either.
"So when we can get back to the point where we can have kids back at school, and can get people back at work, then I think we're going to see also that lift in our economy in ways that we very much need.''
The Prime Minister's concerns came after Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton - who caught COVID-19 - declared the Queensland Teachers' Union (QTU) "has their hands firmly around the throat of the government''.
Under Education Queensland rules, state school students must stay home until at least May 22, unless they are the children of "essential workers'' who can't supervise them at home, or "vulnerable children'' known to Child Safety, Youth Justice or from certain Aboriginal communities.
At least 80 per cent of students stayed away this week, but The Courier-Mail has revealed that the QTU is threatening to have schools shut down if "too many'' kids show up to class.
It has also warned that children could be kept home until July 13, if a "second wave'' of coronavirus infections prevents schools opening fully during Term 2.
Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan yesterday set a June 1 deadline for schools to reopen.
"If they could do it before then, absolutely we'd like it to be done'' he said.
He said it was not fair that parents working from home also have to homeschool their children while on the job.
"Everyone should follow the guidelines of the medical expert panel, which says it's safe for children to go to school,'' he said.
Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace yesterday said she was working closely with Mr Tehan and would review Queensland "in the coming weeks and implement a stated return to normal classes''.
"As always, we continue to follow the expert health advice,'' she said.
Ms Grace said Mr Dutton's claim of union interference was wrong, "and he of all people should know the risks posed by the spread of COVID-19, particularly given his role in the Ruby Princess debacle''.
Australia's Chief Medical Officer, Dr Brendan Murphy, said the "community risk of having children together in a classroom is low'', and that "most'' children with COVID-19 caught it from a family member.
But Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said she wanted to test more people for COVID-19 before sending all students back to school.
"It might be possible, let's wait and see rather than predict the future,'' she said.
"Let's take it one step at a time.''
Dr Young said schools had been shut down a week before the Easter holidays because "we had to do something fast''.
"We were having a rapid escalation in the number of cases and we had to get on top of that,'' she said
Dr Young said she understood why teachers were concerned about COVID-19 "getting out of hand''.
"They are seeing the same images that I'm seeing every single day of what's going on in New York, what's going on in Italy …. and they're terrifying images,'' she said.
QTU president Kevin Bates said the union was working with Education Queensland to balance the health and safety of teachers with students' education and the need to support "other essential services'' by having the children of essential workers in classrooms.
"The QTU is proud of the outstanding work of teachers and principals in quickly developing and delivering materials for learning at home, so that parents concerned about sending their children to school during this pandemic have the choice to keep them at home, while still learning,'' he said.
State Opposition leader Deb Frecklington said all parents should be allowed to decide whether to send healthy children to school, or keep them home, during the COVID-19 crisis.
Originally published as Qld refuses to play ball on school return date