The Queensland Education Minister must put “her shoulder to the wheel” and give some direction and clarification on boarding school arrangements for Term 3, the member for Gregory Lachlan Millar told Queensland Parliament today.
Speaking after a zoom protest rally by parents, Mr Millar described boarders as “forgotten”.
“I was disgusted to learn that parents have received not one word of response since the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association wrote to the Premier ten days ago, pleading for help to resolve the situation,” said Mr Millar.
“I wrote a very strong letter to the Minister and the Premier on the same day and I have not received a response either.”
In a speech to the Parliament this afternoon, Mr Millar said the problem started when the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) introduced a rule restricting boarding schools to 25 per cent of their normal residency.
“The AHPPC doesn’t take instructions from God and hand down stone tablets,” Mr Millar told the House.
“It is a committee of all the Chief Health Officers and Queensland is fully represented.
“As a state where boarding is a key education pathway, Queensland should have immediately challenged the 25% residency proposal. Queensland should have asked what would happen to the remaining 75 per cent forcibly excluded from their school by the rule,” he said.
Mr Millar said that compared to the 1.5 metre social distancing rule or the four-square-metre rule for indoor gatherings, the 25 per cent residency rule appeared unscientific and arbitrary.
The rule was lifted by the AHPPC yesterday (June 17, 2020) but according to Mr Millar that won’t resolve anything.
“There is still no clear direction on what schools need to do if boarders are to return. That has to come from the Queensland Government. We are going to be living with COVID19 for some time and the Minister for Education has to find a way to make it work.
“She is responsible for the education and welfare of all Queensland’s students regardless of the pandemic .”
Mr Millar compared the situations of boarding and day students, saying boarders must feel like they are non-persons.
“In the boarding school, social distancing is strictly enforced, even during mealtimes. They can’t socialise or study with their mates. They can’t have recreational or sporting contact with their fellow students. They can’t leave the school campus. It must feel like the universe has cancelled them.
“Then during the day, they are working with day students who are free to mingle with the community, go to markets, go on marches, use public transport and hug their parents and siblings,” he said.
Mr Millar said the children in the 75 per cent cohort were also struggling.
“Some families have split to allow one parent to oversee their children as day students. Other children are billeted out or living with family friends. Many children are still learning remotely on their own. Their education and mental health are suffering because they are often completely alone while family members work,” he said.
Mr Millar said the situation was an outrage.
“The Premier and the Minister are completely ignoring the issue. We have roadmaps for sports and roadmaps for everyone, but no roadmap for boarding.
“Instead, parents are constantly hearing the Premier say that schools are back to normal. They are not. I am begging her to ensure boarders can return for Term 3 and to give families that Roadmap,” he said.