AMID COVID-19 restrictions being eased across the community, Queensland’s 307 Catholic schools won’t take up a federal government “incentive” to fast-track school funding to restart face-to-face teaching by the end of the month.
“We want to focus on supporting the students, supporting our families and ensuring the pandemic has the minimal impact on the wellbeing of students and their learning,” Queensland Catholic Education Commission’s executive director, Dr Lee-Anne Perry told ABC radio after rejecting the offer.
Dr Perry said she was grateful for the offer from the Morrison Government to opt-in to early payments, but said the state’s Catholic schools had already budgeted for the scheduled July funding payment.
“Schools will continue to operate in accordance with the advice of the state health authorities, with the wellbeing and safety of our students and staff as our highest priority,” Dr Perry said.
“For now, Catholic schools remain open to the children of essential workers and vulnerable students, while also providing high-quality learning-at-home support and resources for all other Catholic school students.”
Queensland’s Education Minister Grace Grace called the funding offer “very confusing (and) very irresponsible” and without consultation with state education ministers around the country.
She warned the Commonwealth to stop interfering in the states’ business.
Ms Grace said she was given no prior warning by federal Education Minister Dan Tehan of an offer to expedite funding for non-government schools that return to 50 per cent classroom teaching by the end of May.
“There’s been no discussion with regards to this whatsoever with the (state) education ministers, and can I say many of my colleagues around the country as really sick of it and we just want them to stop,” she said.
Ms Grace said she considered it unfair to link the fast-tracking of funding to the opening of schools during a world health pandemic.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will make a decision on May 15 about whether to fully reopen schools.
“For now, Catholic schools remain open to the children of essential workers and vulnerable students while also providing high quality learning-at-home support and resources for all other Catholic school students,” Dr Perry said.
Dr Perry said Catholic schools were showing wonderful innovation and creativity in keeping all students engaged, whether they were learning at home or at school.