To agree or not to agree? Schools to decide on early funding by 1 May 2020

In a move designed to encourage non-government schools to open to all students by 1 June 2020, the Federal government wrote to schools on 28 April 2020 offering earlier access to funding upon certain conditions being met.

The conditions are that the school should provide a physical learning environment from Term 2 and commit to having 50% of students in classroom learning by 1 June 2020. Meeting those conditions sees two payments of July funding made to the State by 21 May and 9 June 2020 respectively. Replies are sought by 1 May 2020, after which they may not be considered.

The conundrum is that schools were not prepared for this advice, and many have been gearing up, particularly in Victoria, to implement change from 11 May 2020, the date of the State premier’s announcement on restrictions. The Victorian government position, although non-binding on non-government schools, is that schools should offer onsite learning to only vulnerable students and those whose parents cannot work from home (aimed at essential service workers).

School boards make the call on this one and will need to meet in the next day to decide whether they want or need the funding and the implications for fee relief or JobKeeper entitlement calculations.

The Government’s Return to Classroom based learning Factsheet contains its recommendations about practices which will need to be followed to keep students safe.

Next steps

It will be important for schools to make this assessment independently, especially as there is no change to minimum standards. The management of risk, with student welfare at the centre, rather than the management of money, will need to be the primary consideration.

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