‘Kids are paying the price’: Albanese makes pitch to parents over classroom safety in the pandemic

Funding could be used for projects to improve airflow, construct more outdoor classrooms, and renovate classrooms with poor ventilation.

Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese and Shadow Minister for Education Tanya Plibersek

The Labor frontbenchers said parents are worried about the return to school. Source: AAP

In the midst of the supercharged political debate around children returning to the classroom as Omicron spreads, the Opposition Leader will commit to a funding package spotlighting improved ventilation in school.

In a speech at the National Press Club today Anthony Albanese will unveil the $440 million Schools Upgrade Fund.

It’s pitched at protecting the health of students and teachers, while helping children re-embrace the learning environment they had before the pandemic. 

A joint statement issued by Mr Albanese and his education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek warns "parents are worried sick about sending their kids back to school". 

"Scott Morrison's delays getting a COVID vaccine for young people means many students will be more exposed than they should be returning to class."

The Fund could be used for projects to improve airflow, construct more outdoor classrooms, purchase air purifiers and renovate classrooms with poor ventilation.

It would also be available to pay for new building work and renovations.

"We know it’s been hard for P&Cs to fundraise over the last two years, with the usual sausage sizzles, cakes stalls and fetes cancelled due to the pandemic."

Labor will also outline a plan to boost funding for mental health services to help children who have struggled during the unsettling COVID-19 years, in particular reviewing the impact of the pandemic on students with a disability.

"Remote learning, exam chaos, cancelled sport, and now the delays in vaccine supply, have turned what should be some of the best years of their lives into a cascade of stress and uncertainty," Mr Albanese will tell the Press Club.

"Some children have fallen behind academically, and many are struggling with their mental health. And so many are just missing their friends."

The Prime Minister has identified the return of classroom learning as a key priority this year.

The COVID-19 vaccination is now on offer for children five years and older, and the government has promised there is enough supply to ensure every eligible student can get the jab. 

But Labor has criticised the Coalition’s approach, arguing many families have faced difficulties finding vaccination appointments.

"This Prime Minister never shows leadership. Every problem is someone else's fault," Mr Albanese will say in the speech.

"But our kids are paying the price."

Anna Henderson is SBS World News Chief Political Correspondent and a director of the National Press Club.

3 min read
Published 25 January 2022 at 6:48am
By Anna Henderson
Source: SBS