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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 01 Hansard (Wednesday, 10 February 2010) . . Page.. 122 ..


what about those that need 11 days or 15 days or 18 days? In these cases, our principals face additional red tape. However, for the umpteenth time, our own independent ACT school principals have had the ability and autonomy to consider these various options of up to 20 days for years.

If Mr Barr was genuine in promoting the cause for enhanced principal autonomy then he would bite the bullet and not hide behind halfway measures yet again. Give the ACT principals the parity with their counterparts in the New South Wales school system and make the decision for parity not just another token halfway measure because of political one-upmanship.

I can understand school principals not wishing to rock the boat; they would rather accept a halfway measure than the current status quo, and they are obliged to listen to their minister. It is a great pity that the minister does not repay their loyalty with some honest answers, starting with why he does not trust our ACT principals to be able to make the same decisions within their schools that their counterparts in the independent school systems in the ACT and all the New South Wales schools have had for years.

I have to say that I am disappointed with the way that Mr Barr has attempted to confuse the situation with misleading statements, going from five-day suspensions to 20 days. Nobody is suggesting an automatic entry into a 20-day scenario, and I would hope that 20 days would never be used by the principals, but the option is there. While I think that the full 20-day option would be very rarely used, this is really not about the number of days but whether we trust our principals to make the right choice to suit particular circumstances. I certainly do have faith in the professionalism of our educators to make these decisions, while the current evidence would suggest that Mr Barr does not.

My office has had a significant and growing number of complaints from parents who are frustrated with the problems their children are experiencing in our schools and on whose behalf I continue to make representations to Minister Barr. Consequently, and not surprisingly, this topic has generated considerable interest in the community. Parents are urging us to take a stand on their behalf.

The call for support of the teachers and students who have to put up with continued disruptions in the classroom is coming through loud and clear. The plea to allow those who want to learn must also be given consideration, and the management of disruptive students should not be at the continued cost of those who wish to learn. There is a desire for better management of disruptive students, and frustrated educators who face the conflicting targets that are forced on them need our assistance. 

This is the question that I have been attempting to debate with Mr Barr—I have been asking Mr Barr the question for three months: should our principals have the autonomy and the ability to determine appropriate actions for students in their own schools? Well, Mr Barr, the answer from the community is loud and clear—yes, they should. My colleagues in the opposition and I continue our stand here today to champion this right.


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