Gippsland students will not lose another second of critical time in the classroom under an elected Nationals and Liberals government.
Shadow Assistant Minister for Education and The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina Bath said there is no substitute for face-to-face learning and being present in the classroom.
“After two years of uncertainty our school children have faced enormous disruptions and mental health pressures from being bounced in and out lockdowns,” said Ms Bath.
“Social isolation from the school community and significant disruptions to class time have weighed heavily on the learning, development and mental health of our young people.
“The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute tells us that “continued lockdowns and school closures” not the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the most harm on young Victorians.
“Data also shows that country students are falling further behind students in the city.
“The Nationals believe being at school with teachers and friends is the best place for children which is why we’ll deliver a Face-to-Face Learning Guarantee to keep schools open.
“It’s vital school education and the future of young people is put back on track.”
Ms Bath said the depth of the mental health crisis for young people was laid bare last year with statistics showing the demand for Kids Helpline services in Victoria skyrocketing and a manifest increase in presentations to hospital emergency departments for mental health reasons.”
“Alongside a classroom guarantee children need extra mental health support to help them rebuild and recover.
“The Nationals are calling for a change in the Mental Health Act 2014 so 2000 professional Counsellors can be unlocked and classified as mental health professionals to support students in schools.
“Under existing Victorian state legislation, our registered Counsellors are not recognised as ‘mental health practitioners’ and they can’t provide mental health support in our schools.”
“As our children settle into the 2022 academic year, they need this additional support to recover from lockdowns and scaremongering health messaging.
“The requirement for additional mental health support in our schools is well documented.
“Many parents remain concerned by their child’s ongoing reluctance and behavioural issues at returning to the classroom, while in older age groups there are issues around disconnect and premature school exit.
“Making qualified Counsellors available would support children to unpack their residual stresses of the pandemic and lockdowns.
“Our students deserve the best start in life – we’ll deliver and recover and rebuild by keeping our schools open and children supported.”