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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 8 Hansard (6 August) . . Page.. 2917..


Question so resolved in the negative.

Schools—class sizes

MR SESELJA (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (11.31): I move:

That this Assembly:

(1) notes the positive benefits of small class sizes on educational outcomes especially in primary school;

(2) condemns the Stanhope Government for cutting 35 high school teacher positions as part of the 2006-07 budget; and

(3) welcomes recent commitments by the Canberra Liberals to:

(a) implement a policy over the term of the next Assembly of having no more than 21 students in ACT government primary school classes;

(b) appoint an additional 150 primary school teachers and an additional 20 teaching assistants over four years to meet class size targets;

(c) replace over three years the 35 high school teacher positions cut by the Stanhope Government;

(d) pay the Higher Education Contribution Scheme debt of some graduate teachers to recruit outstanding teachers; and

(e) sponsor mid-career professionals in maths, science and information technology to do teacher training.

I see an amendment to my motion is being circulated already. What a shock! Mr Speaker, all parents of school children, especially young children, will welcome the opposition's announcement that it will reduce class sizes in years K to 6 to 21 students. This means that many classes will be reduced to by up to a third of their current size. It seems that one of the few commentators not to welcome this announcement has been education minister Andrew Barr. Mr Barr's comments in yesterday's MPI debate have spelt an end to what had been bipartisan support for smaller class sizes in our schools.

At the start of this decade the previous Liberal government first provided funding for smaller classes. Subsequently, Labor followed through with their reductions up to year 3. That effort stalled at the end of 2004, but there was bipartisan acceptance that smaller classes remained the way to go. Since Mr Barr became minister two years ago, some class sizes have been going up as they have shut schools, stripped the system for spare parts and sought efficiencies. Mr Barr has been shamelessly stumping around claiming credit for class size reductions that preceded his time in parliament and claiming rhetorically that Labor still supported smaller classes.

Less than 12 months ago Mr Andrew Barr was extolling the virtues of the policy when quoting Professor Linda Darling-Hamilton, who found that smaller class sizes were one of the factors that consistently affected student achievement. The minister


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