Teachers Union president tells Scott Morrison to keep out of schooling debate

Parents should not be worried about their school-aged children missing out on some study amid the coronavirus crisis, says the head of a teachers' union.

A file photo of children sitting in a classroom during a lesson.

A file photo of children sitting in a classroom during a lesson. Source: AAP

Parents should not be worried about their school-aged children missing out on some study amid the coronavirus crisis, the head of Queensland's teachers' union says.

It comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison took to social media to ask the nation's teachers to keep classrooms open, especially for the children of essential workers who cannot be effectively homeschooled.

"We cannot allow a situation where parents are forced to choose between putting food on the table through their employment, to support their kids and their kids' education," he said in the message.

"We will lose many things in the course of fighting this virus. One thing that I know teachers are united on, with their parents, is we do not want one of those things to be the loss of a child's education, giving up a whole year of their learning."

Scott Morrison appeal to teachers and parents

'Young people will not suffer'

Queensland Teachers Union president Kevin Bates suggests Mr Morrison should keep out of the schooling debate after saying the education of children "hangs in the balance" on Wednesday.

"I think nothing could be further from the truth," Mr Bates told Nine's Today Show about Mr Morrison's comments.

"Our young people will not suffer from a short period of hiatus around their learning," Mr Bates said.

He said state governments are managing the response to the virus outbreak well, with the children of essential workers and those children who are vulnerable being able to continue to go to schools

Education Minister Dan Tehan has defended the government's approach to ensuring that learning continues. 

"We do not want our children's education to suffer during this pandemic," he said. 

He said having schools open would play a vital role in the education of students whose parents have to go to work and those that are vulnerable or don't have access to online learning.

"The role that our teachers are going to play during this is going to be vital," he said. 

Mr Tehan said medical officials were continuing to monitor what precautions were need to make schools safe on a daily basis. 

This included steps like extra sanitiser, hand washing, taking lunchtimes at different times, and adapted roles for teachers over 65 years or older.

"Can I say too to all those parents who are out there working, please do not feel guilty about sending your students to school," he said.

"You are playing a vital role in helping our economy."

Return to school sees more remote learning

Classrooms across the country are moving towards remote learning as a result of coronavirus.

In Victoria, term two for schools resumes on Wednesday but most students will be learning from home.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is keen to see an increase in face-to-face teaching during the term.

"I'll make sure there's plenty of time to update parents and students, but our desire is to see a change in term two. I've been very open about that," she told reporters.

"We want to see students have access to face-to-face teaching."

Queensland will review its advice on schools by May 15 in an effort to provide clarity for parents halfway through the term.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said schools were open for children of essential workers and vulnerable students.

"I think we've got that mix right here in Queensland," she told reporters.

Labor's education spokesperson Tanya Plibersek hit out at the prime minster's plea, saying he was contradicting state and territory leaders.

"Parents just want clear information. So do teachers. This mess must be cleaned up immediately," she said on Wednesday.

Mr Morrison said medical experts still advised the coronavirus risk remains very low for children attending school, but added the health of teachers was a priority.

NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said evidence from overseas showed outbreaks among children in schools were unlikely.

"They tend to get it milder, there aren't reported outbreaks amongst children in schools and it was adults introducing it to children," she told reporters.

She said NSW would release a report showing adults were the most common source of transmitting the disease.

Mr Morrison thanked teachers for their efforts to keep classes going, in many cases online, while the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

"I want teachers to know from me, both as a parent and as a prime minister, just how appreciated you are and how important the job is that you're doing right now and how much you are needed," he said.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

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.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

Published 15 April 2020 at 9:24am, updated 15 April 2020 at 10:40am