Dan Tehan: Why we’re keeping schools open
Every Australian has a role to play as we confront the challenge of the coronavirus.
Whether it's our doctors and nurses, our educators or our medical experts, everyone needs to pull together to help slow the spread of the virus and to save lives.
That is why governments of all political persuasion are working together in the National Cabinet.
It is why we must all work together. It is why we must listen to the expert medical advice.
The medical expert panel that is advising all Australian governments is bringing together the best minds we have in our country to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
It is drawing on renowned expertise from our medical institutes, our scientists and our universities.
If we don't listen to the panel, who should we listen to? The experts on Twitter or Facebook? The myriad of commentators in the media?
If we did this we would soon be lost in a sea of conflicting and confusing opinion and more lives would be at risk.
The medical experts are telling us that pre-emptive closures of schools is not proportionate or effective as a public health intervention to prevent the spread of the coronavirus at this time.
We must listen to this advice.
For our teachers and principals, keeping schools open is presenting many challenges. Can I say thank you for the important role you are playing in providing continuity of education for our children at this time.
The Federal Government and all state and territory governments understand the pressures you are currently facing.
Rest assured, we are listening to the expert medical advice when it comes to your safety.
If that advice changes we will act.
The World Health Organisation has observed children tended to be infected by adults, and 2.4 per cent of total reported cases in China were under the age of 19. Our expert medical panel is monitoring the data coming from other countries on a daily basis.
We all know how important it is that we get this issue right.
Can I say to all Australians, we need to thank and support our educators for providing continuity of learning for our three million children at this time.
We all need to understand the pressure our teachers are under, and that if we close schools at this time, it will make it harder to manage the spread of the coronavirus.
To parents, and I'm one, please say thank you to our teachers, support them and lend them a helping hand.
If your child has flu-like symptoms or feels unwell, do not send them to school.
Teach your kids to practice good hygiene and practice good hygiene yourself.
Wash your hands regularly.
If your children are at home, don't let them roam the streets.
And practice social distancing.
Understand that schools are implementing social distancing policies. They are promoting personal hygiene measures such as frequent handwashing, not having school assemblies, staggering lunchtimes and reducing after school activities as well as inter-school activities.
This means our children are receiving the normality of their education at a time of great uncertainty. Crucially, structure remains at a time of rapid change.
It also means other key workers, like doctors and nurses, can continue caring for the sick or preparing to combat the spread of the virus because they don't have to take time off work to look after their children.
It also means our grandparents and other older or vulnerable Australians won't be put at risk because they are asked to look after children who don't have a school to attend.
The medical experts are telling us it is in the public health interest at this time to keep our schools open and to send our children to school if they are well.
We have listen to this advice, because we would be lost without it.
As Mark Twain observed, 'Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you would have rather talked.'
Dan Tehan is the Federal Minister for Education.
Originally published as Dan Tehan: Why we're keeping schools open