Australia

Scott Morrison stands firm on schools ahead of teachers union meeting

Teachers are juggling in-school and remote working. Source: AAP

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says "everyone who has a job" should be able to send their children to school, while the Australian Education Union pushes for safety measures and exemptions.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has insisted schools remain open for the children of "everyone who has a job" ahead of his meeting with the Australian Education Union (AEU) on Wednesday.

The national teachers union, which met with Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan on Tuesday, is concerned about the health of its members and has accused the government of not doing enough to ensure their workplaces are safe.

"Social distancing requires staff and students to keep a distance of 1.5 metres, a requirement which is practically impossible in the vast majority of public education settings across the nation," the union said in an open letter to Mr Morrison posted on its website.

The teachers unions want members who are considered vulnerable to COVID-19 such as the elderly, those with chronic conditions and pregnant women, to be able to work from home, with schools to engage casual workers to plug the gaps.

In Victoria, schools are closed after the Term 1 holidays were brought forward to Tuesday and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has encouraged parents to keep their children home if they can. 

On Tuesday night, Mr Morrison said he was looking forward to discussing with the union how to continue to provide education while keeping teachers and students safe.

Mr Morrison has pushed all states and territories to keep schools open for "essential workers", a decision supported by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPCC).

"We don't want to lose a year of school ... As we know, the medical advice is kids can safely go to schools," Mr Morrison said on Tuesday night.

He said everyone who has a job in this economy is an essential worker. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says schools will stay open.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says schools will stay open.
AAP

"It can be essential in a service whether it's a nurse or a doctor or a schoolteacher, or a public servant who is working tonight to ensure that we can get even greater capacity in our Centrelink offices, working until 8 under the new arrangement in the call centres, these are all essential jobs. 

"People stacking shelves, that is essential. People earning money in their family when another member of their family may have lost their job and can no longer earn, that's an essential job."

Mr Morrison said he looked forward to achieving a common sense of purpose with the AEU on Wednesday, in order to "keep the nation functioning and providing the  education for children, protection for staff and to keep Australia running."

Australians must stay at least 1.5 metres away from other people. Indoors, there must be a density of no more than one person per four square metres of floor space.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor, don’t visit, or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

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