The date your child is due to start learning again varies around the country and so does the advice about whether you should send them off to school in the first place.
The coronavirus pandemic forcing people to work from home has created a dual challenge for those now stuck at home with their children.
And for some parents, knowing when children are due to go back to school is now a date to look forward to rather than simply be aware of.
It differs around the country as different states take their own approach to the pandemic. Some states had already transitioned to online classes before the school holidays, while others brought the holidays forward to buy time to work on a plan.
It’s the role of the states to set out the resumption of classes so it’s best to listen to your local state government leaders and safe to disregard any information you hear from the federal government that confuses you further.
“State and territory governments and non-government sector authorities are responsible for managing and making operational decisions for their school systems,” the federal government’s new National Principles for School Education, agreed by the national cabinet on Thursday, outlines.
But the Principles also say that responsibility is “subject to compliance with relevant funding agreements with the Commonwealth”.
Independent private schools, who despite the name still receive sizeable funding from the Commonwealth and lesser amounts from state governments (around 75 per cent of the money for Catholic schools and “less than one half” for other independents comes from the public purse, according to the Department of Education, Skills and Employment).
Federal education minister Dan Tehan has previously said he would “be varying the approval of all independent approved authorities to include a condition from the commencement of term two, requiring schools to provide a physical classroom environment for the children of parents who choose to access it” in a letter to the Independent Schools Council of Australia.
It’s possible that could mean students at “elite” schools are sent back into classrooms ahead of their publicly educated counterparts, proving educational inequality really can cut both ways.
On Thursday Scott Morrison simply advised parents to “follow the instructions that are being provided by state premiers and state education ministers”.
Listen to your state premiers and territory chief ministers.
At the moment here’s what they’ve been saying about when school will go back.
Victoria sent students on holiday early so it could evaluate how it would continue teaching.
It appears to have settled on a remote learning approach that keeps kids out of classrooms and takes their lessons online.
Term two started on Wednesday, but only around three per cent of students returned to the classroom.
“The message from Victoria has been clear and consistent: if you can learn from home, you must learn from home, and that message has been understood and heeded. This is about social distancing and it is working,” Victorian education minister James Merlino said on Thursday.
He said the remote learning will continue for the rest of the term unless medical advice in the state changes.
Qld students will spend at least the first five weeks of the term at home if they can learn there and someone is home to supervise them.
Term two begins in the state on Monday, April 20.
If you’re the parent of a child in a Queensland school who is defined as an essential worker (someone who must continue to attend their workplace for essential business, according to the Queensland Department of Education) and can’t supervise them during school hours or find someone who can, they will be allowed to go to school.
Individual schools will also be able to identify “vulnerable” students who will be allowed to continue attending schools.
Students receiving assistance from the Department of Child Safety, who are under a child protection order, or a youth justice order, will also be allowed into classrooms. Children in some Indigenous communities will also be able to go to school.
Qld education minister Grace Grace said parents should contact their individual schools if you require further assistance about whether you can send your child to school.
“Schools are being encouraged to loan devices like laptops or tablets to students who may not have access to them at home," Ms Grace added.
The state government is also working with Telstra to distribute around 5000 SIM cards to students who don’t have internet access.
Most teachers and other school staff will continue going into classrooms, but already spent the last week of term one preparing a curriculum that can be accessed online or in printed workbooks.
They will also continue contacting their students via phone, email, or through live-streamed lessons.
The government will keep those policies in place until at least May 22, with an assessment scheduled for May 15 to see whether to continue them beyond that or adjust them.
The Northern Territory, which has so far recorded very few coronavirus cases (28 as of Friday, nine have recovered), expects students back in classrooms when term two begins on Monday, April 20.
It’s essentially business as usual, the schools will remain open and students are expected to attend in person.
Exceptions can be made for students to learn from home if their parents inform the school.
The second term of the 2020 school year starts on Monday, April 27, but kids won’t be going back to classrooms on that day.
The state moved to deliver classes online in the last week of term one while keeping schools open for the small number of students who couldn’t learn from home.
On Thursday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said students could start heading back into classrooms by the third week of term, beginning on May 11.
“We’re currently going through the process of speaking to stakeholders, speaking to principals and teachers, to look at the various options and what will work for NSW,” Ms Berejiklian said.
She added she supports kids going back to school but that it needs to be done in a reasonable and appropriate way, including continuing using social distancing measures, which can be difficult in small classrooms with dozens of students and their teachers.
A “roster system” has been proposed to reduce the number of kids in the class and there are no plans to have all students back at once until at least term three.
At the moment it’s up to parents to decide whether they send their kids to school on the first day of term, Monday, April 27.
The education department there has said there will be remote learning options available and teachers have already used pupil-free days to prepare for those.
SA’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr Nicola Spurrier has said schools, preschools, early childhood services and out-of-school care should remain open.
WA students are set to go back to school when term two begins on Wednesday, April 29, but you can keep your child at home to learn remotely if you want.
The day before will be a pupil free day for their teachers to prepare for that.
If you’re dropping your child off at school in WA you won’t be allowed in the grounds of the school, however.
Premier Mark McGowan has said the state will review and potentially alter the policies before May 18.
"This is an approach that will give kids peace of mind and allow parents to make a decision on what is best for their kids," Mr McGowan told reporters on Friday.
"If parents don't feel comfortable sending their kids to school for whatever reason, they will not be obligated to do so. However, year 11 and 12 students are strongly encouraged to attend,” he said.
Alternative arrangements will be put in place for potentially vulnerable staff and schools will be encouraged to stagger start, finish and meal times.
Assemblies, excursions and inter-school activities won't be allowed, while school swimming pools will be closed and canteens restricted to takeaway.
Tasmania’s term two begins on Tuesday, April 28.
The day before will be a pupil-free day for teachers to prepare for “whatever the current COVID-19 situation may be at that time,” the state’s education department said earlier this month.
Students will learn from home “where possible”, led by their teachers.
Classrooms will be open for students if they can’t be supervised at home or take classes there.
Teachers will provide a weekly overview to parents of what their child’s days should entail, as well as activities to support their learning that aligns with the Australian Curriculum.
Those will be online, offline or a combination of both.
Teachers in Tasmania are also expected to be in regular contact with students.
AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY
ACT students are due to start term two on Tuesday, April 28.
In line with many of the states, classrooms will remain open for the students who can’t learn at home, but the majority of students are expected to learn remotely.