Page 880 - Week 03 - Thursday, 7 April 2022

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supported all young Canberrans—and will continue to do so as the pandemic evolves. However, there is more to do, as we face more challenges across the changing phases of the pandemic.

Mr Acting Speaker, our commitment is to provide access to quality health care, learning and employment opportunities for all children and young people in the ACT. Continuing access to education was part of the ACT government’s COVID-19 recovery plan. Set up for Success and the future of education strategy provide a birth-to-18-years education framework, creating solid foundations to empower every child to learn. We acknowledge the role of parents in a child’s education, especially in facilitating home learning and the challenges this pandemic has presented during lockdowns. One of the early successes of the future of education strategy was providing supports for students, families and teachers to rapidly shift to online learning in 2020 and 2021.

To lay out gradual and safe steps towards a COVID-normal life in the ACT, a roadmap for ACT public schools was released in June 2020. The roadmap supported the easing of restrictions on parent engagement in school-based activities as soon as possible. Our back to school plan in 2021 was informed by children, young people and their parents. Almost 1,400 students completed an online survey, along with almost 3,400 parents. This gave us insights into making the return to face-to-face learning as positive as possible and helping students feel safe at school.

We responded to the August 2021 lockdown by prioritising vaccinations for education staff and year 12 students, to help get students back into classrooms and ready for exams as soon as possible. As a government we have continued advancing vaccination rollouts directly and through community partnerships. To keep our schools safe, vaccinations are now available for all school-aged children, along with rapid antigen tests for students and staff in our schools. Once again, we listened to the voices of parents, staff and students about what would work best for them.

The evidence demonstrates the positive impact of early years learning on outcomes for later life. Safe learning opportunities were created for our children by Libraries ACT, through creating online videos for the Giggle and Wiggle, story time and bilingual story time programs; launching the summer story walk in January 2021, to promote the health benefits of reading and walking; and the delivery of books through the mystery box program to 1,700 customers, including Canberra families and early childhood education centres.

COVID-19 has impacted young people who are starting their career or who have lost employment opportunities. We have developed a range of pathways and programs to assist young Canberrans in their transition from school to further education or work. This includes delivering an ACT pilot of the innovative Headstart program, allowing 50 ACT public secondary students to take an extra year to complete college and start an apprenticeship or traineeship in a recognised qualification or trade; supporting sessions in ACT schools for young people to access information services about work health and safety and their rights at work, delivered by the Young Workers Advice Service; and providing subsidised training places under the Australian apprenticeships User Choice program. We also extended the ACT JobTrainer program to add

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