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Virus could mean extra year of school for every student

Coronavirus disruptions to education would mean an extra year of school for every Australian student under a worst-case scenario the federal government is desperately trying to avoid.

As millions of children prepare to start "distance education" at home after the Easter break, ensuring they are able to learn enough to continue to the next grade level in 2021 has become a major concern..

Behind closed doors, senior Morrison government figures have been urging unions and education leaders to be flexible with teaching and bring more innovative solutions to the table to avoid the worst case.

If the sector is unable to rise to the challenge, Australia could be forced to create a one-off "Year 13" for the first time.

Education Minister Dan Tehan last week flagged assisting current Year 12 students to graduate was now "at the top of the priority list" for every state and territory.

 

Coronavirus disruptions to education could mean an extra year of school for every Australian student.
Coronavirus disruptions to education could mean an extra year of school for every Australian student.

"Obviously there are numerous issues that families are facing, but (Year 12) is one I'm getting a lot of feedback (about), which is of concern and we will be addressing this in the coming weeks," he said.

It comes as the NSW government has categorically ruled out holding any students back, with preparations for widespread distance education from Term 2 under way.

"There is no doubt that this is a very different year for education in NSW, however, we still expect that students will be able to progress through their normal year of schooling," state Education Minister Sarah Mitchell told The Daily Telegraph.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has repeatedly voiced his concerns about the impact that six months of mass-distance education during the coronavirus crisis could have on the development of children.

"I don't want to see our children lose an entire year of their education," Mr Morrison said last month. "That's what we're talking about here. This is very serious."

 

NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell.
NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell.

 

Centre for Independent Studies researcher Jennifer Buckingham said the impact of the coronavirus on children's learning depended on how long they had to stay at home.

"If it's only next term, that's salvageable, if it's the next two terms that's going to be a different prospect," Dr Buckingham said.

"I'm not entirely convinced repeating the year will be needed, perhaps rearranging the school year so students start back earlier in 2021 could work."

Dr Buckingham said children in "milestone" school years such as the end of primary school and particularly Year 12 would need more attention.

"When the time comes for children to finally go back to school, there are a lot of experts in Australia who will be able to come to the table and work out what needs to be done," she said.

School Education Program Director at the Grattan Institute Peter Goss said vulnerable students were particularly at risk of falling behind, adding: "There are no easy answers."

Originally published as Virus could mean extra year of school for every student



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