Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 10 Hansard (17 October) . . Page.. 3134..
MR BARR: I thank Mr Gentleman for his question. The answer is clearly yes. Two years into this Assembly the stark differences between the government and the opposition on this issue are obvious. The government is prepared to engage in difficult reform to ensure that our public education system best meets the needs of students now and into the future. The opposition and others resort to populist tricks rather than engage in serious debate about the future of education in the ACT.
Mrs Dunne: No, we don't tell lies.
Ms MacDonald: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mrs Dunne just said that the government was telling lies. I ask that she withdraw that.
Mrs Dunne: No, I didn't. Mr Speaker, I said we don't tell lies.
MR SPEAKER: Order! I have to say that I chose to ignore it. Mrs Dunne said, "We don't tell lies."It can be said that there is an imputation that somebody else here does, so Mrs Dunne might withdraw that imputation.
Mrs Dunne: Mr Speaker, I withdraw any imputation that someone else might tell lies.
MR SPEAKER: Thank you.
MR BARR: Members may be aware of a media release from the save our schools organisation that touted the benefits of small schools for disadvantaged students, and this was used as a basis to attack the government's reform proposals. The background to the media release was a review of the evidence by Trevor Cobbold from the save our schools group. This interesting piece of work, which is largely based on research from the United States, raises a number of questions about the optimum size of a school. However, if you go to the research that Mr Cobbold has used as the basis for his claims you find a very different set of answers to the ones Mr Cobbold claimed to find. Out of the 12 pieces of research Mr Cobbold reviewed, all have different views on the impact of school size on student outcomes. The Washington School Research Centre, which is the first reference in Mr Cobbold's paper, says:
Certainly, the multi-level findings of our study argue against the simplistic conclusion that reducing school and/or district size will automatically improve student achievement, or be more equitable.
Of course, when looking at the American research, there is also the problem of determining what is meant by a small school. The US Education Commission of the States suggests that the common definition of a small school ranges from 200 to 900 students, while the Rural and Community Trusts' examination of New York public schools asserts:
The literature on the relationship between high school outputs and the size of a school's student body is unambiguous; schools with between 600 and 1,200 students show better outputs than other size schools.
However, Mr Speaker, the research that I find most compelling is from Linda Darling-Hamilton, who finds: