Education Minister Sarah Courtney remains on holidays as a new survey reveals 66 per cent of Australian parents don’t believe it’s safe for children to return to classrooms in the midst of the new wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shadow Education Minister Josh Willie said with such levels of anxiety and uncertainty among parents and an unacceptable lack of information from the Gutwein Government, Ms Courtney either has to provide a return-to-school plan and guarantee all safety work has been undertaken or return to work to ensure it is done.
“Less than three weeks before school resumes and when there is no information about what has been done to ensure Tasmanian schools are COVID safe is not the time for Ms Courtney to be missing in action,” Mr Willie said.
“There is nothing wrong with taking annual leave but the school community is at a crucial junction when assurances need to be given – this Minister needs to be stepping up and delivering on her responsibilities because there has been no meaningful information from the government.
“Where is their plan to keep vulnerable students and students with a disability safe and engaged in an inclusive curriculum?
“Where is the plan to make vaccinations more accessible for five to 11 year olds to increase the rates before school?
“Will there be enough free rapid antigen tests to ensure students and staff can help prevent community transmission?
“Will staff and students be provided N95 masks or similar and how will that work for primary school aged children?
“Where is the Department of Education COVID safety audit and how much from the government’s $300 million COVID fund has the government spent on school upgrades?
“What will be the close contact guidelines for students and school staff?
“Will there be enough staff to keep schools operational or is the Department of Education planning to redeploy bureaucrats, recruit retired teachers or fast track pre-service teachers?”
Mr Willie said Ms Courtney and the government should be paying attention to the significant concerns of parents, highlighted by the release this week of a national survey by independent parent advocacy group The Parenthood which shows two thirds of those surveyed have considerable apprehension about the return to school.
“Ms Courtney should understand parents want assurances that their children will be safe.
“Ms Courtney needs to be called back to work to give the school community solid information so Tasmanian children can continue their education at school with confidence.”
Josh Willie MLC
Shadow Minister for Education and Early Years