A leading expert from The Australian National University (ANU) is calling for more financial and other supports for families who conducted home schooling during lockdown periods.
Professor Lyndall Strazdins said parents and carers who were facilitating education during their work hours have been “overlooked” and should have been given a wage subsidy.
“We had JobKeeper, JobSeeker – but we also should have had HomeTeacher,” Professor Strazdins said.
“Where was HomeTeacher? There could have been an opportunity for parents to take parental leave, similar to what they can access after having a baby, so they could take an absence from their work and actually do the other job of home schooling.
The NSW Government this month announced a $250 one-off payment for people who home-schooled students during lockdown.
“Parents have faced the impossible conflict between trying to manage their job and trying to manage their children's future.”
Professor Strazdins said the payment was a promising start, but there needed to be financial support from the Federal Government to help parents, particularly women and single parent families.
“When we entered lockdowns across much of the country, parents were suddenly forced to take on an entirely new job in an entirely new environment, without training, while managing their day job,” Professor Strazdins said.
“The focus has been on people who lost jobs or were looking for jobs, but there were people who had a job but couldn’t do it because of the extra teaching and supervision.
“The government hasn’t given any real consideration to or recognition of the impact on parents, communities and families.
“They have asked homes to become schools without making that feasible in terms of time and money for the parents.”
About 22 per cent of Australian households have school-age children - almost 2 million households, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
While many schools developed resources for parents, Professor Strazdins said home learning was a “massive” time commitment.
“Teachers work very hard in the classroom to maintain motivation, engagement and understanding. That is what parents were doing while trying to work remotely. It is impossible to do both things,” she said.
“Parents couldn’t stick their kids on a computer and leave them for eight hours while they were working. They had to motivate, support them and be there to help them learn.”
Professor Strazdins also argues that the ongoing impact of lockdowns and the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic had also entrenched long-standing inequality, with women still having to do the majority of “invisible” work.
“The new normal looks a lot like the old normal. This invisible work often falls to women,” she said.
Professor Peter Whiteford, an expert on social policy from the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy, said: “This is a neglected issue in Australia and around the world.
“Despite unprecedented policy responses, the pandemic exposed many of the weaknesses in our system of social protection. We need to think about what the future holds and if our social policy settings are able to cover the new risks we will face.”