School's in, but must I send my children to school?

ABSENT: Is it now compulsory to physically send my child to school? This is the question facing many Australian parents.
ABSENT: Is it now compulsory to physically send my child to school? This is the question facing many Australian parents.

Is it now compulsory to physically send my child back to school?

With all Australian states now releasing their road map for a return to face-to-face learning, it's the question dominating the thoughts of many parents.

Confusing parents is the variance between states - some allowing parental discretion and continuing to provide at home learning resources, others marking students as absent should they be kept home.

QUEENSLAND

In Queensland, students in Kindy, Prep, Year 1, Year 11 and Year 12, have returned to school, with the remaining year levels due to return on May 25.

However, in Queensland, parents can still choose to keep their children home due to concerns about COVID-19. Students will not be marked as absent as a result of this decision.

The Queensland Education Department indicated that at this stage it couldn't "really say how long the choice to keep children home will be made available, as it's a developing situation".

"We'll work with health authorities and keep parents up to date with announcements as decisions are made," the spokesperson said.

ACT

Implementing a staggered return from May 18, the ACT will not penalise students for not attending school.

"The ACT Chief Health Officer has advised that schools are safe for children, and we are implementing new cleaning health and hygiene measures to make them even safer," an ACT Education Directorate spokesperson said.

"We expect students will return to the classroom on the dates that have been specified for each year level.

"We understand, however, some people may be anxious about sending their children to school. In these circumstances, we will not penalise students for non-attendance.

"ACT public schools will work with these families to make sure their child's learning continues and to support them in re-joining classroom learning as soon as practical.

"Students with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems will be supported to remain studying from home."

SA and WA

In South Australia and Western Australia, parents can also choose to keep their children at home due to COVID-19 concerns, should they wish, with remote and distance learning packages available for students.

NSW

In NSW, where a staggered return to face-to-face learning began this week, the NSW Education Department stated that "parents and carers are encouraged to send their child to school on the allocated time or day/s for that student's cohort".

"If there are personal circumstances preventing a student from attending school on their allocated day/time, this should be discussed with the school principal," a spokesperson said.

"Students are not expected to participate in learning if they are unwell. Once parents or carers notify the school that the student is absent due to illness, they will be marked as being on sick leave."

Otherwise, practices that were in place prior to COVID-19 will be adhered to in NSW.

"In the event that a student is not at school and the school is unable to contact parents/carers to determine the student's whereabouts, the student will be marked as being on unapproved leave and the absence will be followed up using normal processes."

NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said, "parents should be reassured knowing that our schools are safe spaces and that the education department has prepared well for the staged return to classrooms".

VICTORIA and TASMANIA

A staggered return to the classroom in Victoria should, all going well, see all students back in the classroom by June 9.

While parents may choose to keep their children at home, the Victorian Education Department has made it clear that there will be no online learning provided to those students. Schools will provide face-to-face learning only once students have returned to the classroom.

In Tasmania, once students start attending school, they too will no longer be supported by their school with learning at home.

All states have indicated that there may be exceptions for children or families with serious health issues.

This story School's in, but do I have to send my children to school? first appeared on The Canberra Times.