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We must ensure all children return to school after lockdown

I recently spoke with a principal in Melbourne’s northern suburbs. During the first lockdown, her school worked tirelessly to support students through remote learning. But now, months later, the threat of “lost learning” isn’t her chief concern. Instead, what keeps this principal up at night is the prospect that some of her students – as young as primary school children – “may never even return to school”.

The Smith Family's Victorian general manager Anton Leschen.

The Smith Family’s Victorian general manager Anton Leschen.

This is as extreme as it sounds – we’re talking about primary school-aged kids never returning to school. But this isn’t Dickensian London; this is Victoria in 2020 – and for a country as wealthy as ours, it’s a prospect I find unacceptable.

When Victoria’s lockdown was extended, my thoughts went to a great mother who’s been doing it tough all her life. I’ll call her Sue. She’s a single parent living in Bendigo, and not in paid employment.

Faced with the task of co-ordinating the home schooling of her four children, Sue struggled with just one computer and limited data access, somehow also juggling the responsibility of caring for her elderly mother. Despite the brave face, it was increasingly difficult to keep her children engaged with school.

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