Private schools ordered to reopen after Easter
Private schools will be ordered to reopen for nurses, doctors and police officers after the Easter school holidays or risk losing billions of dollars in funding.
Education Minister Dan Tehan confirmed the get-tough approach in Term 2 after a meeting of the national cabinet on schools.
But the threat to slash funding only applies to private schools in the independent system and does not apply to public schools which are under the jurisdiction of state premiers.
"We're just saying now that is part of the funding requirement, you have to be offering this to parents whose children you are educating,'' Mr Tehan said.
"It's safe for schools to be open. We want to ensure all parents have that choice - if they're working, we don't have them to make that decision between going to work and staying at home."
Some states including NSW, Victoria and the ACT are now openly defying the Prime Minister's insistence that schools are safe for children to attend and urging parents not to send kids to school unless they have no other alternative.
In the nation's capital, public schools have gone a step further, announcing they will not even guarantee care for nurses, doctors and police at children's own schools but will instead leave open a handful of schools that will operate as "hubs" to supervise kids doing the same online learning they would otherwise work on at home.
The "hubs" will not be staffed by teachers but a mixture of out of school hours carers and health workers and some teachers while the vast majority of ACT teachers work from home.
This is despite the Prime Minister's repeated insistence that while schools would not close their doors to workers that needed care even if they switch to online learning.
Scott Morrison has repeatedly claimed that an essential worker is "any worker who has a job" and not just frontline health workers.
But despite spruiking Thursday's national cabinet as focusing on options for education and COVID-19, there was no mention of schools in the communique issued just after 5pm.
In a letter to the Independent Schools Council of Australia sent on Thursday afternoon, Mr Tehan has reminded a handful of schools that are refusing to offer any face-to-face supervision for kids that they must do so for frontline health workers.
"I am aware that a small number of independent schools have chosen to stand down all physical classroom delivery and move to alternative, or online classroom delivery,'' Mr Tehan wrote.
"While I appreciate that a number of jurisdictions are moving towards this form of service delivery, I am asking schools to retain a physical classroom environment for the children of parents who may not have a choice of keeping children at home.
"These might be the children of essential front line workers such as paramedics, nurses, doctors and police officers who, in the absence of a classroom option, are forced to make the decision to stop working in our essential services."
Mr Tehan said he was prepared to reduce funding if schools failed to comply.
"Therefore I am advising you that I will be varying the approval of all independent approved authorities to include a condition from the commencement of term two, requiring schools to provide a physical classroom environment for the children of parents who choose to access it,'' he said.
The new order will still exempt independent schools forced to close temporarily if there is a COVID-19 outbreak.
National Cabinet will meet again next Thursday on April 16.
Originally published as Schools ordered to reopen after Easter