Page 789 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 6 April 2022

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leadership in this portfolio area. We have more than 50,000 students who attend ACT public schools. There are more than 4,000 teachers across our 90 public schools. Every local school is a great school. Our schools and teachers work incredibly hard to deliver a high quality education for all of our students.

The ACT government believes that every child deserves a great education and the life chances that flow from it. The future of education strategy is a 10-year strategy for the ACT to guide all parts of our education system and to support and deliver excellence and equity in educational outcomes for each and every child and young person. The vision of the strategy is to build future-focused education systems that equip children and young people with the knowledge, skills and understanding that prepare them to embrace the opportunities and face the challenges that are emerging in our rapidly changing 21st century world.

The ACT government is committed to investing in education. The most recent budget included an additional $51 million in recurrent funding, including more than $21 million for Chromebooks for years 7 to 12 students and $2.8 million for internet access for students who need it, along with e-safety initiatives; $12.5 million for early childhood education and care investment; $11.5 million to boost the education equity fund to reach an estimated five times as many students; $7.4 million for an additional 22 youth and social workers; $1.5 million to trial a breakfast and lunch program; $450,000 to review inclusive education; and $455,000 to provide college students with free and confidential legal advice.

In addition, the government continues to invest in new infrastructure, including the expansion of Margaret Hendry School, a new Taylor high school, the modernisation of Garran Primary School and Narrabundah College, a new Strathnairn primary school, an ongoing repairs and maintenance program, the removal of hazardous materials and the installation and maintenance of modular learning facilities.

As members are aware, a national teacher shortage is impacting government and non-government schools right across the community. This is not an excuse; it is a very well-known fact. COVID has exacerbated this. We have seen this occur across all of our community, across all workplaces; not just within our school systems. In the ACT we are actively taking steps to address this, including recruitment campaigns and the establishment of the teacher shortage task force with the Australian Education Union. The COVID-19 pandemic has also significantly impacted schools over the last two years. There is no doubt that the constantly changing COVID-19 situation is making life difficult for teachers and school staff, especially in the broader context of the current national teacher shortage.

The ACT government has been working collaboratively with stakeholders, including the Chief Health Officer, the ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Association, the ACT Principals Association, the Australian Education Union, Catholic Education and the Association of Independent Schools, to produce the best possible outcomes for all of our school communities. All schools in the ACT are following a clear set of health guidelines developed by the ACT Chief Health Officer. They have key measures which include compulsory use of masks indoors for all adults and students in years 7 to 12; masks for years 3 to 6 are encouraged; arranging students and staff into groups

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