Private schools push Premier to reopen early
CASH-strapped private schools are in revolt against Queensland's coronavirus class closures, demanding that boarding schools reopen and senior students be sent back to school immediately.
Warning that Queensland Year 12s could be disadvantaged for university entry, Independent Schools Queensland executive director David Robertson has written to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to push for "the immediate return of all Year 11 and 12 students to school''.
"With Queensland adopting the ATAR for tertiary entrance from this year, it is important that Queensland students are not disadvantaged compared to their counterparts in other states and territories,'' he wrote in a letter sent on Friday.
"Senior secondary is a most critical phase of schooling and every effort should be made to have minimal disruption to continuity of quality teaching and learning for these students.''
A defiant Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace refused to change the rules for schooling yesterday, saying a decision would be made on May 15.
"As the Premier said in parliament this week, we would look at implementing a staged return to normal classes for senior students in the first instance,'' she said.
Students are already allowed back to school in South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, with NSW students to attend classes one day a week from May 11.
But Queensland kids can only go to school if they are deemed to be "vulnerable'', or their parents are "essential workers'' who can't work from home.
The ban has forced elite private schools to slash fees as angry parents baulk at paying thousands of dollars this term, despite homeschooling their kids.
Mr Robertson said students from Prep to Year 3 - when they are taught the foundations of literacy and numeracy - should also be allowed to back to school "as soon as possible''.
He said boarding schools should also reopen "on equity grounds and to ensure that the many students from remote and rural communities who often do not have an alternative but to board also receive high quality teaching and learning''.
Queensland has 95,000 students in Years 11 and 12, including 22,657 in independent schools with 1282 in boarding schools.
Private schools operate independently of Education Queensland but are bound by Queensland Health COVID-19 regulations, which triggered the closure of schools a week before the Easter holidays.
Independent Education Union state secretary Terry Burke yesterday said any return-to-school should be "based on medical advice'' to protect the health and safety of staff and students.
"This includes maintaining appropriate social distancing measures for staff … and ensuring vulnerable employees can continue to work from home,'' he said.
Queensland Teachers' Union president Kevin Bates said senior students should be given priority to return to class "when the time is right''.
"That is a matter to be determined by the government at the end of (next week),'' he said.
Originally published as Private schools push Premier to reopen early