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Private schools offered early $3.3b carrot to resume classes within a month

Private schools are being offered an early payment of more than $3.3 billion but only if they get students back into classrooms within a month.

Apr 29, 2020, updated Apr 29, 2020
Rural parents who send their children to boarding schools generally work to a shorter school year. (Photo: AAP Image/Darren England)

Rural parents who send their children to boarding schools generally work to a shorter school year. (Photo: AAP Image/Darren England)

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan wants to see students getting back to their normal education routines by the end of May, as the coronavirus crisis eases in Australia.

But he’s faced pushback from the state governments and private school bodies.

The minister has now written to the independent schools’ peak body and the National Catholic Education Commission offering an early payment of a quarter of the annual funding due to them in July.

He says if the schools commit to having their physical campus open for term two for those students who can’t learn from home, they can get 12.5 per cent of their money – a total of almost $1.7 billion – on May 21.

They must also have a plan to fully reopen classrooms at the start of June.

The same amount would be paid on June 9 if at least half their students are back in regular classroom-based learning from June 1.

The idea is to give schools a cash boost if they need it to cope with the virus crisis while also giving them an incentive to end learning from home.

Schools don’t have long to consider the offer, with Tehan giving them until Friday to opt in.

The medical advice has consistently been that children don’t spread the coronavirus very much and are far less likely to catch it than adults.

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The national health committee says schools can operate with appropriate social distancing arrangements in place, mostly for teachers, and regular cleaning throughout each day of surfaces such as desks, keyboards, doorknobs and playgrounds.

Despite this, the Independent Education Union’s Queensland and Northern Territory branch released a short research paper on Tuesday that said reopening schools was a “high-risk strategy”.

But the paper primarily highlights research looking at the ways children spread influenza.

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy has said that coronavirus acts very differently to influenza but it is understandable this is difficult for parents and teachers to comprehend when they have seen how quickly children spread diseases in a normal winter.

–  AAP

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