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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 1 Hansard (10 February) . . Page.. 123..

MR DOSZPOT (continuing):

In presenting this bill to the Assembly, I voice my strongest plea to Minister Barr and encourage the government to reconsider its previous position and vote to give parity to ACT principals both within our own ACT education sectors and within the New South Wales education system. I also emphasise once again to all our parliamentary colleagues in the government and on the crossbench that they reconsider their position and listen to what the principals and educators are telling them. This is not about whether a child should be suspended at all; it is about trusting the judgement of our principals and ensuring that they have every possible opportunity to address issues as they arise in their schools.

We can say it again and again, but the reality is that suspension for a maximum amount of time will be rarely used. Again, it is the principle of the issue. If the need arises, the school itself is best placed to find a way forward, and in some situations it may be that the only way to move forward is to have a circuit-breaker at the discretion of the principal. We acknowledge that suspension is certainly not the only answer to antisocial behaviour in ACT schools, but it goes some of the way towards empowering principals and is a starting point from which to progress.

After my consultation with the relevant stakeholders, the bill presented here today includes a provision for the department to set out guidelines for principals to ensure that the re-entry of a student is as supportive and streamlined as possible. These guidelines will be set down by the department and will, no doubt, incorporate some of the policies that already exist within the system.

The difference is that the focus will now be on these policies, and the requirement for guidelines will ensure that these policies are formalised and acknowledged as best practice for principals. The requirement for guidelines will ensure that all parties are aware that the re-entry of a student will be supportive, consultative and as smooth as possible for all concerned—that is, for the student and his or her family as well as the school and the school community.

As the minister stated yesterday, the issue of suspending students has generated considerable interest in the community. We have had a lot of support from parents, who, as I mentioned, are urging us to remain steadfast on their behalf. The question is: should our principals have the autonomy and the ability to determine appropriate actions for students in their own schools? The answer is a resounding yes, they should. I commend this bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Barr) adjourned to the next sitting.

Review of government services

MR SESELJA (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (10.12): I move:

That this Assembly:

(1) notes:

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