Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 01 Hansard (Wednesday, 10 February 2010) . . Page.. 155 ..
While we are talking about spin—digressing for a moment—Ms Burch, I note, has also had another spin which she has been caught out on, saying that the Multicultural Festival this year had more attendees than last year. Her office has now said that this is incorrect. Interesting!
A few interesting publications came to light in the last few weeks: the Productivity Commission’s report on government services and of course the controversial My School website. Both sets of data give us an interesting and new perspective of the state of the ACT’s education system. My School has no doubt been a significant talking point nationally and has been the cause of much public commentary. Whether or not you agree with the publication, and indeed the publication of tables as a result of the data, is neither here nor there in this debate. The one aspect we can all agree on is that the data published on My School has given governments across Australia information on which they must be held to account and information that we in this place must take on notice.
The results for the ACT are not as rosy as the education minister would have us believe. Surprise, surprise! And to make matters worse, this government has had access to this information for years. Overall, the results are mixed for ACT schools, with a number lagging behind in comparison to other schools in similar demographic areas. In fact, three-quarters of our students are doing worse than their counterparts in other parts of Australia.
When we take into account the fact, as presented in the Productivity Commission report, that the ACT government provides more financial support for government school students than any other state and territory government in Australia, except for the Northern Territory, this result is really put in perspective. We are spending more and we are getting far less.
Mr Barr has been described in an opinion piece in the Canberra Times on 2 February as “confidently presiding over a system that gives our kids less of a head start than they could achieve almost anywhere else in the country”. Without going into direct comparisons of schools, it is clear to see that, despite telling us over and over again that educational outcomes would be improved with the expenditure of millions of dollars for our new superschools, this has simply not been the case. After communities had the heart ripped out of them with the closure of schools, the results clearly shown in the data tell us that there has been no significant educational improvement. The results do not back up the rhetoric that these changes would create the better educational outcomes that Mr Barr so often gave us that he is now very much the holder of the title “minister of spin”.
The bottom line is that the Stanhope government cannot claim that the experiment of closing schools has worked. The real question is: how long have this government sat on their hands? How long have they sat on this information and how long have we been trending downwards? How long have they known? We know that it is 10 years since the ACT first started ACTAP and subsequently NAPLAN testing. So this government have been getting results since 2001, and the current minister since 2006. Surely this has been time enough to see the trends and to head off any disastrous outcomes.