Feds’ $3b ultimatum on private schools’ return



PRIVATE schools demanding funding support during the coronavirus crisis have been ordered to reopen classrooms by June if they want an advance on a $3 billion federal government pay cheque.

After lobbying for their annual funding to be brought forward, non-government schools have now been told they won't see an extra cent unless they commit to getting kids back on campus, and ensure every student has access to some form of learning in the meantime.

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan wrote to the Independent Schools Council of Australia and National Catholic Education Commission yesterday, offering non-government schools the option to apply for a quarter of their total annual funding - normally paid in July - over two instalments in May and June if they met strict requirements.

Combined, the Catholic schools would receive a share of $1.6 billion and the independent schools would get $1.4 billion in advance payments.

To be eligible for the first instalment, schools must comply with a new rule introduced in April requiring them to offer some form of physical learning to students unable to study from home.

To qualify for the second payment schools must commit having at least half of all students attending classroom-based learning by June 1.

It comes as the Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk refuses to be swayed by new research that shows remote learning would disadvantage students, while Treasury modelling revealed there has been a definite negative impact on the economy as parents juggle work and homeschooling.



Queensland state schools yesterday had their highest rate of physical attendance this term at 14.8 per cent, just below the peak of the State Government's estimate that between 10-15 per cent, as schools remained open only for essential workers' children and those deemed vulnerable.

Ms Palaszczuk said low transmission in the next two weeks would be critical for the mid-May decision on how schools could reopen.

Five research reports have been commissioned by the federal Department of Education, one of which showed that up to half of Australian students could be adversely impacted by remote learning.

But Education Minister Grace Grace said the reports assumed that remote learning would occur for six months.

Meanwhile, the Independent Education Union said reopening schools for all students was high-risk, citing an internal research review by Adele Schmidt.

Dr Schmidt said calls to fully reopen schools ignored established research showing the potential for students to infect scores of contacts.

But Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said Ms Palaszczuk should now admit she had got it wrong.

"The overwhelming evidence is that our schools should be open for everyone, and that parents should have the right to choose how their kids learn," she said.






Originally published as Feds' $3b ultimatum on private schools' return

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