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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2014 Week 2 Hansard (20 March) . . Page.. 633..

Education—class sizes

MR WALL: My question is to the Minister for Education and Training. Minister, I understand your office has been contacted recently by parents concerned at growing class sizes affecting at least one public primary school with classes that have up to 28 students, and likely to increase to up to 31 students next year. Minister, your predecessor promised smaller class sizes in 2008. Are you stepping away from that policy?

MS BURCH: I know I have been contacted also. I think there is one school in particular about which a parent has made contact with a number of members here. We are working with the family. School sizes, as most parents understand, are not static. If, in particular, some schools have shared classrooms, how do you determine the number of kids in a space with the number of teachers? We also look at teacher ratio. We have the lowest teacher ratio across states and territories. So if you look at the hours and the face-to-face time by individual teachers, and how teachers are supported in their professional practice, here in the ACT I believe we do better than any other state and territory.

The other decisions around school sizes and how the teachers are managed are decisions for local principals in schools. As I understand it, if we are talking about the same school, they are no longer taking enrolments from out of area because it has reached capacity. But it is an ongoing conversation. They have the right number of teachers that they need. But on site, each and every day, principals make decisions about the best utilisation of those resources for the students and their outcomes.

MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Mr Wall.

MR WALL: Minister, how does an average class size policy help children in classes with significantly higher than average numbers?

Ms Burch: Can you just repeat the beginning of that?

MR WALL: How does an average class size policy help children in—

MS BURCH: It goes to the general allocation of resources of teachers across the system. Also, it is more than just the numbers; it is around the ratio of students to teachers. We here in the ACT have the best ratio of students to teachers. We do that in many ways because, for those new graduates that come in, we have made a deliberate decision to support them being offline, being away from the class so that they have access to PD and mentoring so that when they come back to their hours in the class they are skilled up and they are able to be the best teachers they can be.

MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Mr Doszpot.

MR DOSZPOT: Minister, what options does a school have if they have higher than average numbers over a range of classes?

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