'Mass confusion': PM blasted over school comments


QUEENSLAND'S powerful union for teachers has slammed Prime Minister Scott Morrison for creating "chaos" and "mass confusion" around whether parents should be sending their kids to school next week.

Queensland Teachers' Union president Kevin Bates said the damage caused by Prime Minister Scott Morrison's call for teachers to return to school could not be overestimated.

It comes after The Courier-Mail revealed Mr Morrison would today plead with teachers to return to classrooms, warning the education of students hangs in the balance.

"We've already been inundated by feedback from school principals that they have been smashed by emails from parents saying the Prime Minister said 'I'll be bringing my child to school next week so you better be ready'," Mr Bates said.

"The rules around opening schools are clear, if you're an essential worker or you have a vulnerable child, then they will be entitled to go to school but the Premier made it absolutely clear, if your child can be at home they must be at home and learning at home.

"The reality will be that the [Queensland] Premier could make those statements over and over again, but when you have the Prime Minister of the country making contrary statements that he has no authority to make that creates mass confusion and creates significant issues for leaders in schools who will be responsible for gatekeeping."

Mr Bates said the intervention by Mr Morrison in the highly sensitive issue around whether schools should be open during the COVID-19 pandemic has had "significant negative consequences".

"It was obviously timed to impact in Victoria, you can only imagine the chaos created by the Prime Minister coming out and telling parents the exact opposite of what the Premier of Victoria told parents last week on the morning of the day of school is to go back," he said.

"It certainly appears on the surface to create the maximum possible disruption and to severely undermine the government of victoria and its position."

Mr Battes told the Today Show that students would not suffer from a "short hiatus around their learning".

Queensland Teachers' Union president Kevin Bates. Picture: supplied
Queensland Teachers' Union president Kevin Bates. Picture: supplied

He also says young people weren't expected to miss out on schooling because teachers were well prepared to deliver classes in a variety of ways. In Queensland, where school resumes on Monday, an exam has been axed from the Year 12 curriculum because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Education Minister Grace Grace said instead of Year 12 students having four exams, they will now only have three in 2020.

And for parents supervising their children just two to three hours of learning each day will usually be enough, Ms Grace has told The Courier-Mail.

During a Facebook Live session on Tuesday afternoon Ms Grace told Year 12 students "Good news! You are only doing three exams this year".

"One has been eliminated, two internal - one has already been done - so one more internal and then you'll have an external exam … We want to make sure that there is no Year 13." Schools, kindergartens and childcare centres will remain open for vulnerable students and children of essential workers when term two begins.

Ms Grace also clarified the definition of an essential worker.

"If you are required in your workplace and unable to supervise your children at home or make suitable arrangements, then you are deemed to be an essential worker," she said.

Remote learning is locked in until May 22 although a decision on it whether is extended will be made by May 15.

A school student studies at home under new coronavirus schooling plan. Photo: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
A school student studies at home under new coronavirus schooling plan. Photo: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, learning packs are being sent to students across the state, with the minister saying teachers will be in contact with parents and carers while the tests and instructional papers will be delivered to households so they can learn remotely.

"If you are struggling please contact the school and let them know where you are struggling and what the issues are," she said.

Staff at schools and childcare centres are now on the list of those who can be tested for COVID-19.




Originally published as Union boss blasts PM: 'Students won't suffer'

Education Minister Grace Grace. Picture: Steve Pohlner
Education Minister Grace Grace. Picture: Steve Pohlner