Union backflip is hurting every family in Australia

As the Instagram meme goes, "It takes a village to raise a child and a vineyard to home school one."

At our house, the start to the new school term has been like university O-Week, but with pyjamas instead of togas, and more emotional breakdowns and demands the household bar

As the Instagram meme goes: "It takes a village to raise a child and a vineyard to home school one."

At our house, the start to the new school term has been like university O-Week, but with pyjamas instead of togas, and more emotional breakdowns and demands the household bar start serving before noon (me).

 

After a tense Mathletics standoff on Tuesday, my five-year-old "runned away". I found her crouched by the wheelie bins where she declared it was "the worst day ever".

As a prep in the first months of her school life, she balances on the precipice of learning to read and write. She is desperate to advance, but my perforated commitment to homeschooling - punctured by demands of a job, home and other small children - is failing her.

Our teachers, who spent their Easter holidays working to deliver an entirely new online system (many juggling their own children at home) were also let down, not just by dodgy technology, but by their unions.

Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Brendan Murphy, has repeatedly said “the risk to children of coronavirus is extremely low”. Picture: AAP/Mick Tsikas
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Brendan Murphy, has repeatedly said “the risk to children of coronavirus is extremely low”. Picture: AAP/Mick Tsikas

"Education is all about paying attention to the facts," the Australian Education Union told us in September, when they encouraged students to strike for climate change.

"Australia's school children along with students across the globe are calling on the Australian government to do the same. The evidence is overwhelming and unequivocal on the science of human-induced climate change."

But fast forward six months to coronavirus, and suddenly the unions no longer subscribe to their own teaching, where trust in science is ignored in favour of political posturing.

Australia's Chief Medical Officer, Dr Brendan Murphy, has repeatedly said "the risk to children of coronavirus is extremely low" and the "community risk of having children together in a classroom is low''.

A Lancet study published in April found schools were safe and that closing them was ineffective in stemming the spread.

A report by the OECD also found "school closures are most effective for infections with limited rate of spread, when they are implemented in the early phases of an outbreak and when attack rates are higher in children than in adults" - none of which applies to coronavirus.

A young girl writes with chalk on her home driveway on the Gold Coast, as students prepare to remain at home to be schooled. Picture: AAP/Dave Hunt
A young girl writes with chalk on her home driveway on the Gold Coast, as students prepare to remain at home to be schooled. Picture: AAP/Dave Hunt

If children do become infected with COVID-19, data shows they have a low risk of dying. Of the first 13,130 COVID-19 deaths in the US, only three were children aged under 15, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Taiwan has one of the world's lowest infection and death rates, despite being neighbours with China. After briefly extending holidays, their schools have been open since February.

New Zealand, which has also dodged a COVID-19 mass spread, will reopen schools on Wednesday. Norway's lower schools reopen on Monday. France, Mexico and Germany are also planning to reopen schools in the coming weeks.

Unlike wet markets, luxury ski resorts and cruise ships, schools have not been found to be super spreaders. Yet the unions demand students remain at home.

Dr Murphy assured us that the "consensus view of all of the chief health officers" was that schools should stay open.

But in Queensland, where homeschooling may continue until June 1, (and where Education Minister Grace Grace is a former Queensland Council of Unions general secretary which is somehow not a conflict of interest), Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young insisted on more testing "rather than predict the future".

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced this week that schools will be reopening on Wednesday. Picture: Hagen Hopkins/Getty
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced this week that schools will be reopening on Wednesday. Picture: Hagen Hopkins/Getty

Sure, there is not enough evidence to rule out children are silent carriers, but the fact our childcare centres, which are bastions of germs, have been open as Australia's curve flattened to below one per cent is perhaps unofficial confirmation they don't.

Our teachers have the right to be safe. But how is safety compromised when experts say it is safe?

The unions' ideological cherry picking drags the teaching profession into disrepute and denies them the appreciation they deserve for their hard work and sacrifice. And it only further perpetuates the inaccurate stereotype of 'lazy' teachers.

Let's also be realistic: this hit to our economy leaves us facing a likely future of decreased funding and resources for schools, placing even more pressure on our already overstretched teachers.

And the fallout of keeping students at home is immense. Student dropout rates are expected to increase, and our performance on global education rankings will drop further. World Vision Australia has warned that unless schools reopen, 1.2 million children will be stuck in poverty, and possibly lost to the education system, forever.

Maybe it's time for a union for parents and students. One that hopefully will listen to the facts, not just when it suits a political agenda.

Lucy Carne is editor of Rendezview.com.au

Originally published as Union backflip is hurting every family in Australia