Local students should return to school

Eastern Victoria students must be allowed return to school, in line with expert advice that says our schools are safe.

The Andrews Labor Government is refusing to listen to advice from Australia’s Chief Medical Officer and the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) endorsing a return to school in Term Two.

The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina Bath said parents were doing their best to make remote learning work, however with other states re-opening schools it was time for Victoria to do the same.

“Too many families are feeling the pressure of having to simultaneously work and manage remote learning with their children,” Ms Bath said.

“As a former maths and science secondary school teacher my greatest concern is with those students in Years 10, 11 and 12.

“These senior students are the ones whose education is at significant risk if they do not get back into the classroom.”

Ms Bath said she has written to Victoria’s Minister for Education seeking details on what, if any modelling he has been undertaken on student dropout rates during Covid-19 with a particular emphasis on VCE and VCAL.

“Parents have voiced concerns that they do not want their senior secondary students prematurely leaving school.

“Our teachers and students are working tremendously hard to make remote learning work, however studying from home does not replicate the individualised support available in a classroom.

“Even the best technology cannot substitute face-to-face education and many students are struggling in an online learning environment.

Ms Bath said while other states have made the decision to re-open schools, Daniel Andrews is digging in his heels and ignoring the advice of Australia’s medical experts.

“The experts are telling us our schools are safe. With the right health safeguards students must be able to return to school.”

The Nationals are calling for additional health protections to be put in place alongside a return to school.

Staggered drop-offs and pick-ups, banning parents from school premises, banning contact sport and extra-curricular activities, increased funding for deep cleaning and medically-approved hand and surface sanitiser, as well as limiting adult congregation in spaces such as staff rooms are examples of measures that can further protect health and safety.

Teachers and support staff considered at heightened risk of COVID-19 due to age, health or other issues should continue to be able to work from home.

“We have consistent advice from the National Cabinet and Australia’s Chief Medical Officer that schools are safe for students to attend,” Ms Bath said.

“Local students should be allowed back to school with a priority given to senior school students, unless they are unwell, or their parents choose for them to learn from home.”