House debates

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Statements by Members

COVID-19: Education

1:57 pm

Photo of Tanya PlibersekTanya Plibersek (Sydney, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Education and Training) Share this | | Hansard source

With the last Victorian students returning to the classroom this week, I'm sure we're all celebrating and acknowledging the huge effort they've made—the principals, the teachers, their parents, their families and most particularly those students who've missed their friends and missed the classroom for so long. A year ago, remote learning would have seemed impossible. Switching almost overnight to remote learning would have seemed beyond us, and yet we did it right across Australia for varying lengths of time.

Of course, going back to the classroom is good news because we know that, although remote learning was terrific and necessary during the lockdown, it has come at a cost. Many students didn't have access to the internet. Many didn't have devices. And disadvantaged students in particular fell behind their peers. Some of the research shows that disadvantaged students were learning at about half their normal rate, so in two months of lockdown they'd lose a month of learning.

Months ago, I wrote to the Minister for Education—I'm glad he's here—saying, 'Please, for goodness' sake, help these kids catch up.' It's no good crying crocodile tears for the disadvantaged kids and what they've missed out on. Let's invest in helping them catch up. The Grattan Institute is just one organisation that has great examples of how we could do that by investing in extra one-to-one and small-group tuition. We should be doing that. You can't run up a trillion dollars worth of debt and not help the most disadvantaged kids. (Time expired)