28 May 2021

Leave students out of lockdown, says Tim Quilty

Liberal Democrats Member for Northern Victoria Tim Quilty has called on the Victorian Government to leave regional students out of lockdown rules.

Mr Quilty says the seven-day lockdown is causing major damage to students’ education and wellbeing with no justification whatsoever.

“Yet again, the focus of this latest outbreak is Melbourne and, yet again, the Victorian Government is overreacting by locking down the whole state, which unfortunately includes students,” Mr Quilty said.

“There is no reason whatsoever that regional students cannot go to school, and no reason for their teachers to be forced to stay at home – there isn’t a school in regional Victoria which has any students coming in from metro Melbourne.

“The Acting Premier, James Merlino, has no grounds to claim keeping regional students at home is going to help in any way, but as Minister for Education he should be well aware of the damage he is causing.

“Closing schools should be a last resort, when all other options have become exhausted.”

Mr Quilty said a report by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute which looked at the effects of last year’s school closures recommended a traffic light system allowing schools to remain open where community transmission is low.

“The report’s lead, Professor Fiona Russell, has said children are much more vulnerable than we might think, with lockdowns and missed lessons leading to increased anxiety,” Mr Quilty said.

“The worst affected are the most disadvantaged children and their families.

“The report recommends a decision on whether to close a school should be based on its proximity to community cases and that priority should go to primary schools, given the low rate of infection among young kids.

“In addition, a Royal Children’s Hospital poll on remote learning found that more than half of Victorian children suffered deteriorating mental health while they were away from school.”

“If Mr Merlino refuses to listen to the voices of ordinary Victorians, perhaps he should listen to a highly qualified and recognised expert in education.”

Mr Quilty said the problem is not restricted to Victorian students.

“In border regions, many schools in NSW have both teachers and students who live in Victoria and who are being turned away when they get to school,” Mr Quilty said.

“This is leading to restricted or cancelled lessons for NSW students and half-empty classes in border schools.

“It is an insult to regional communities, it’s destroying children’s education and it is putting the mental health of developing minds at risk

“This farce is a disgrace for the NSW Government as well as the Victorian one, and tears to shreds Premier Berejiklian’s posturing as a voice of reason in the days of COVID panic.

“It’s time to stop playing Covid Theatre with our kids, and let them get back to school.”