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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 4 Hansard (30 March) . . Page.. 1272..

MS GALLAGHER (continuing):

Boards will also be required to state how voluntary contributions have been or will be spent and to detail how funds being held in reserve will be spent. There are new provisions relating to suspensions, exclusions and transfers that safeguard the right of children and parents to a fair hearing, information and the opportunity for continued education during suspension or exclusion periods.

Mr Speaker, the new provisions balance the need to ensure that all government schools maintain an environment that supports effective teaching and learning free from disruption with the rights of individual students, their safety and wellbeing. With this legislation, the government introduces new and upgraded consultation mechanisms for the government sector. The Government School Education Council is afforded a legislative basis.

The council will have powers to advise the minister on any aspects of the ACT government school system and, when asked by the minister, to inquire into any aspect of the ACT government school system. Membership of the Government School Education Council will include people with experience and expertise in business and commerce, public policy, early childhood care, education and special needs of young people as well as people representing students, principals, school boards, teachers and parents of children at government schools and pre-schools. Advice from the council will be public and is required to be tabled in this Assembly. The minister is required to consult the council to assist in formulating budgetary proposals for government schools.

Mr Speaker, the fourth chapter introduces provisions for non-government schools. It includes principles that recognise parent choice and the diversity of school education in the ACT. The principles for this chapter were developed from the recommendations of the School Legislation Review Committee in close consultation with the non-government school community.

The bill recognises that the non-government school sector consists of schools representing a range of different educational and religious philosophies, that the variety of schools in this sector reflects the diversity of the community in the ACT and the preferences of parents for a particular style of education for their children. Responding to issues raised by the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Non-government Schooling, others in the non-government school sector and the recommendations of the Connors inquiry into education funding in the ACT, the conditions of registration have been clarified and strengthened.

The government has also adopted the recommendation of the Connors inquiry to establish procedures considering an application for a new school and the extension of the educational level of an existing school. There will be an open process where the minister will take account of comments on the proposal by people affected by it, considering evidence of demand, community support and financial capacity. This is an essential measure in the ACT, where there is expected to be at best no increase in numbers of school-aged children in the foreseeable future and where any new school will unavoidably impact on existing schools.

With substantial public investment in all schools, it is necessary to plan carefully the creation of new schools. The non-government school education council will have similar

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