Call for $1.25b pupil 'catch-up' package

Colin Brinsden
Australian Associated Press
Governments should offer extra tutors following COVID-19 school closures, a think tank says
Governments should offer extra tutors following COVID-19 school closures, a think tank says

New research shows only just over a third of NSW teachers were confident their students were learning well at home during the enforced school closures during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Worse still, the survey of 5,000 teachers found only 15 per cent felt assured of progress among disadvantaged schools.

In a new report by the Grattan Institute think tank, it calls on Australian governments to introduce a $1.25 billion package to help disadvantaged children catch up with their schooling over the next six months.

"Our schools, teachers and students adapted remarkably well when the COVID-19 crisis forced them to switch almost overnight to remote learning," the institute's education fellow Julie Sonnemann said.

"But this report shows that most students did not learn as much while at home as they would have in their classrooms and disadvantaged students were the hardest hit."

The report says as schools reopen, most students will recover without too much trouble, but disadvantaged students will need extra support.

"Many disadvantaged students, who were already falling behind before the crisis, will have slipped further back" it says.

The $1.25 billion recovery package will be aimed at one million disadvantaged students for the next six months, and include the cost of sending a battalion of 100,000 tutors into schools between now and Christmas.

The tutors would be drawn from teachers and teacher aides who work part-time, but especially from young university graduates and pre-service teachers who have been hit hard by the COVID-19 job and income losses.

Most tutors, who would work about eight hours a week, could earn up to $6300 over six months.

"Our tutoring blitz plan is a win-win-win," Dr Sonnemann says.

"The tutors get extra income, the economy gets extra stimulus and, most importantly, our disadvantaged students get the chance for a better life."

The package would also cover an expansion of successful literacy and numeracy programs, especially for students in their early years.

The report estimates the economic benefits from the package will vastly outweigh the costs, delivering about $3.5 billion in extra future earnings for disadvantaged students.

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