The Federal Government has offered a funding advance for religious and independent schools having cashflow problems due to COVID-19, on the proviso of a return to classroom-based learning.
A federal Department of Education Skills and Employment spokesperson said that on 28 April, Minister for Education Dan Tehan sent a letter to Independent Schools Council of Australia and National Catholic Education Commission offering non-government schools the option to apply for early payments of their July 2020 recurrent funding to bring payments forward to May and June.
“If all private schools qualified in all states and territories, the Morrison Government would have to bring forward a July payment of $3 billion,” the spokesperson said. “$1.6 billion of this will be allocated to Catholic schools, $1.4 billion to Independent schools. This funding will be allocated to schools according to the normal funding formulae.”
The spokesperson said to be eligible for the first payment (12.5% of their annual funding), non-government approved authorities must comply with the condition of approval imposed on 9 April 2020 to be open for physical campus learning in term 2 and to have a plan to fully re-open classroom teaching by 1 June 2020.
“To be eligible for the second payment (a further 12.5% of their annual funding), the approved authority will need to commit to achieving 50% of their students attending classroom-based learning by 1 June 2020.”
It is not compulsory for schools to take up the federal government’s offer.
“If schools decide not to participate, they will get their normal payment in July,” the spokesperson said.
In a statement, Catholic Education Canberra and Goulburn said they are working closely with NSW and ACT government and health authorities to determine the best plan to return to face-to-face teaching and learning “as soon as it is safe to do so”. These plans will be under constant review based on the most up-to-date health advice.
“The priority in our plan to transition back to ‘normal’ schooling is the learning of students, together with the safety and wellbeing of our staff and students, and the needs of our school families.”
All Catholic schools in the ACT remain open to students who need to attend school. In week one of term 2, around 1,300 students attended a Catholic systemic school on any given school day.
ACT Shadow Minister for Education Elizabeth Lee has congratulated some of Canberra’s non-government schools for announcing a concrete plan for their transition back to classroom teaching.