Help us get Victorian school children back in the classroom

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Help us get Victorian school children back in the classroom.

Melbourne school children will spend more of the academic year excluded from the classroom than any other part of Australia – and likely more than any other country in the world. Yet there has been no discussion, debate or proper evidence to support this decision.

We ask that schools be opened at the beginning of term four. We also ask that decisions concerning our children’s education, and school closures are debated by an independent representative task force which includes teachers, parents, paediatricians and other health specialists. This is necessary to ensure transparency in the decision-making process, that all risks are considered and balanced, and decisions are not influenced by political agendas.

Our schools have been the first thing to close and the last thing to open. The online education our children have been receiving is sub-standard, not because teachers, parents and students aren’t trying, they are all doing an amazing job, but simply because children should not be taught that way for extended periods. Furthermore, school closures amplify inequalities for many children as they are forced to remain home in highly stressed environments. Practical issues for many families include poor internet, limited access to devices, and a lack of space to learn in crowded households with limited supervision available. These reasons and many more contribute to poor academic learning, social development and impact greatly on the mental, physical and emotional health of our children. The view that after this length of time they will bounce back is a complete falsehood.

Expert medical advice has been consistent that schools are safe for students and teachers with the right protocols in place. Schools across the world are applying a variety of methods to keep schools open and disseminating and teaching public health messages in the classroom is a highly effective way of sending information home to families and communities.

The rights of children and the importance of education is a long-term fundamental tenet of our society. The action currently being inflicted upon our state’s youth is destructive and violates these fundamental principles. The closure of schools is illegal without an extended state of emergency which our Premier is currently looking to extend. School closures should be exempt from any agreement on the extension of the SoE powers, and further closures should not be allowed without the full sitting of parliament and multi-disciplinary independent advice.

We can no longer ignore the fact that online learning for such an extended period is unsustainable and damaging our children now, not some time in the future. We have a moral duty to get our children back into classrooms and to ensure we do everything we can, so they stay there.