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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 07 Hansard (Wednesday, 30 June 2004) . . Page.. 3097 ..

MR PRATT (6.39), in reply: The Australian Democrats have their heads in the sand if they believe that the teaching and supporting of values is practised widely across ACT government schools against a clear-cut benchmark. The Democrats criticised non-government schools by making the outrageous suggestion that non-government schools were practising elitist values and that if they were teaching values more easily than other schools it was only because they were disproportionately funded—an outrageous and shameful attack on the non-government school sector.

The Democrats’ criticism was an attempt to distract members from debating this motion, which seeks to identify the educational system that has been put in place by this government. We are used to those sorts of diversionary tactics from the Democrats and others on the left side of politics when it comes to school debates. Ms Dundas said earlier that recently she and I had walked around a particular school and that I had said in debate today that that school does not teach and support core values, which is rubbish. I will not name that high school because by doing so I would be implicitly excluding other schools.

Ms Gallagher: Just come and tell me.

MR PRATT: I will. Whenever I make such statements I would be happy to talk to the minister, confidentially and in detail, about the schools to which I am referring. The high school that we visited teaches very good values and it has in place a good system. The principal and teachers at that school, who have come from a good background, have initiated an educational system that is not necessarily reflected in any government benchmark or policy. Ms Dundas referred earlier to the chair of the Student Forum to whom we both spoke a couple of days ago. He is a leading student from a good high school in the south—a school that is successful in teaching and supporting core values. He is a credit to that school.

I have been watching that young man’s progress and the progress of the school, so members should not go on with this garbage that I have criticised all these schools willy-nilly. This government does not have in place a clear policy or benchmark to enable all schools to attain adequate teaching and supporting values. A number of schools in the ACT, because of their initiatives and the calibre of their teachers and principals, have been able to ramp up their systems and ensure that they have good value systems in place.

I heard statements earlier to the effect that this is wedge politics and that the opposition is insulting schools, or whatever. The point that I am making today is that no clear-cut or consistent policy is in place, which is what we want to see. We think it is important to ensure that we have a uniform performance standard across the ACT education system in the teaching and supporting of values.

I refer now to the Values education study report and to the values recommended in that report. Those are not Liberal Party values, nor are they some throwback core values, as has been suggested by the Greens. I have not talked about ancient core values; I have talked only about values. In making these suggestions today I relied on the advice contained in the federal government’s report Values education study and on what it had to say about the 10 most important values—a list of values that it determined after studying 69 schools.

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