A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece about the federal government’s unethical and egregious treatment of both our federation’s constitution and our students and teachers. I thought it couldn’t get much worse. But I was wrong.

Not content with setting up our teachers as targets for public frustration, the federal government has shown itself to be destructive and divisive.

What is happening behind the scenes.

I mentioned in my previous article that there were remarkable things happening behind the scenes. Without any promise of extra money or benefits, the teaching community, in Australia and globally, had come together to freely share ideas and resources. Teachers from all three sectors, Public, Catholic and Independent, were communicating with each other daily, sharing advice, knowledge and support.

While the boys out the front, were offering bribes to Catholic and Independent schools if they would reopen early, while demonising Public schools, the teachers from these schools were working hard in the background, collegially.

Not content with setting up our teachers as targets for public frustration, the federal government has shown itself to be destructive and divisive. Share on X

Just for clarification. Catholic and Independent schools in K-12 are not controlled by either state or federal governments, but by their own boards. Public schools in K-12 are controlled by the state governments. According to our constitution, the federal government has no right to interfere with public schools. And it was certainly an attack on our constitution for a federal education minister to openly criticise a state premier over public education decisions.

What continually astounds me is that they appear to expect that educators won’t see through their machinations. Thankfully they were wrong, the vast majority of non-public schools saw the bribe for what it was and refused to be drawn into their political grandstanding. 

Medical evidence 

With an increasing volume of solid medical and scientific evidence that children are infected and carry the disease every bit as actively as adults, the demand that we get our schools open without protections, is clear evidence that our federal government has little concern for our children and the families they may infect. They are concerned with the economy and nothing else. 

A dangerous game

But it is a dangerous game they are playing. Smoke and mirrors may work well in commercial marketing but they don’t work with people. As I saw written somewhere, for parents, the jump from frustration to worry occurs in nano-seconds.

Parent’s may be struggling with having kids at home, but all it will take is for one new case in a region, or worst case, a school and the speed with which parents arrive to take their children home will be blistering.

The latest suggestions that schools can be back to normal in two weeks once again shows that neither the PM or his education minister have any idea how schools work.

It needs to be noted that the teachers they have white-anted are the ones who will be expected to revise, yet again, the method of lesson delivery and the differentiation of content needs for each method. All while managing the emotional and psychological states of children whose routines have been disrupted. 

There have been a number of comments from education unions, principals and tertiary institutions outlining the things that need to be put in place to return students to schools safely and productively. There was one by Anna Prytz, in The Age yesterday.

I wish I had more faith that our federal government was interested in talking or listening  to experts. 

So I have some questions:

In the last couple of days I needed to go to both the doctor and the supermarket. In both places I have encountered large perspex shields dividing the doctor and supermarket person and myself. In the self checkout there were screens between the stations.

Is the federal government going to pay for screens to be put into all schools to protect the teachers and admin staff?

I also visited the market. In all of the South Melbourne Market there were reduced ways of moving around. Many normal isles were closed and there was security at entries and exits to ensure physical distancing protocols. Actually shopping was quite pleasant in what is normally a packed market. Except of course that I couldn’t have my son there to help carry the shopping. There were also a lot of people wearing masks.

Is the federal government going to send marshals to guide parents and students into school in a restricted and safe manner?

I received a useful checklist from the Victorian Chamber of Commerce, outlining detailed requirements businesses should put in place prior to opening.

Is the federal government going to provide detailed advice and steps for schools (that have always been open) to safely welcome large numbers of students? 

On the 8th of May, Tammy Mills wrote an article in the Sydney Morning Herald which claimed that employers could be held liable if employees contracted the virus at work.

Will school employees be able to sue the federal government if they get sick at school, because they were told that the same protections that were required for the public did not apply to schools?

We all know that school bathrooms can’t have hot water for safety reasons. That is manageable if you have sufficient cleaning products and careful personal hygiene. There have been stories of schools being forced to accept students even though the promised extra supplies haven’t materialised.

Will the federal government ensure that all schools have sufficient cleaning products and the cleaning personnel to use them?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, then PM and his ministers need to butt out.