Page 1681 - Week 06 - Thursday, 3 June 2021

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Ministerial statement

MS BERRY (Ginninderra—Deputy Chief Minister, Minister for Early Childhood Development, Minister for Education and Youth Affairs, Minister for Housing and Suburban Development, Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Minister for Sport and Recreation and Minister for Women) (10.52): I am happy to have the opportunity today to talk about how the government is responding to growth in our community and the corresponding enrolment growth in public education through long-term schools planning and infrastructure investment. I am proud of the high standard of ACT public education, and I begin my remarks today by acknowledging the work of principals, teachers and staff in ACT public schools who support Canberra students to learn, develop and reach their potential every day.

We are all aware that Canberra is a growing city that is experiencing significant economic and population growth. Between 2010 and 2020 population increased by 19 per cent, and public school enrolments grew faster. In 2010 there were approximately 39,000 students studying in public schools in the ACT. This had increased to over 50,000 by 2020—an increase of around 30 per cent. Over this time period, Canberrans have been demonstrating an increasing preference for public schooling. This has been a key driver of the growth in public school enrolments, as has more children being born. In the established areas of Canberra, as more children are born and reach school age, the majority of these children are attending public schools. Canberran families are confident in public education and I expect that this will continue.

We are living in uncertain times and there is some uncertainty about population growth and what the future will hold. In particular, migration in Australia has decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic, and this is expected to continue in 2021 and 2022. We are pleased Canberra has held up strongly throughout the pandemic. Our city continues to be an attractive destination and our public school system continues to be attractive to families.

The government is monitoring the impacts of COVID-19. These impacts potentially include changes to migration, birth rates and school affiliation across public education, independent and Catholic schools. The government will assess any implications for public school enrolments as part of planning now and throughout the decade to ensure the right school capacity in the right parts of our city.

As Canberra grows to a population of 500,000 and more, the government is building upon the 2019 ACT government infrastructure plan, which identified a pipeline of infrastructure investments, including new and upgraded schools. I assure the community and members that planning is well underway to ensure there is sufficient public school capacity to meet future demand. This planning ensures infrastructure needs are identified and provided for in the right place ready for use when needed.

This work is underpinned by a sophisticated approach to forecasting future student enrolments. The Education Directorate undertakes modelling of future student

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