Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 02 Hansard (Tuesday, 23 February 2010) . . Page.. 528 ..
We have great confidence in our school principals here in the ACT. We have confidence in our principals in the government sector; we have confidence in our principals in the Catholic and independent sector. Indeed, the independent sector principals already have some of these powers, so, once again, it is saying, “Well, independents might be able to be trusted, but not the Catholics and not the government school principals.” We were setting it up differently. We argued for parity. But I do not accept the argument that has been put. There has been no coherent argument as to how this will be bad for students, how this will be bad for schools. We believe it is a step forward.
I reiterate what Mr Doszpot has been arguing very strongly—that this will be simply one part of the overall equation, but a necessary part, an important part and one that should not be overlooked. We cannot overlook the fact that principals are well placed to make these decisions, that principals should be empowered to look after their school communities. We also believe that they will not abuse these powers. We do not expect that they will abuse them. We believe that they will act prudently and only use these enhanced powers where it is absolutely necessary.
I commend the bill and I commend the resolution that has been reached between the Labor Party and the Liberal Party on this issue.
MR BARR (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Planning, Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation and Minister for Gaming and Racing) (4.55), in reply: I thank members for their contribution to the debate. We certainly have, as Mr Doszpot indicated, debated this quite extensively in this chamber and it is a good thing that there is such interest in this issue and that the various points of view in this debate have been put forward passionately. It is important to be able to air these issues in a democracy.
I would like to spend a little bit of time responding to some of the issues that Ms Hunter raised, most particularly to begin by acknowledging the support of the Greens party, and indeed of the Liberals, for the suspension support pilot that is in place in the Melba cluster of schools. But I think I need to take this opportunity to stress that that is but one of many approaches and supports that are in place across our education system.
The support programs and alternative education settings that are available to assist in complex student management issues are extensive in the ACT system, through the complex needs team, through the youth education support and the families in schools together team. The ACT government has made a number of strategic investments in recent years in support of pastoral care coordinators in our public high schools—$17.4 million to provide a pastoral care coordinator for each ACT public high school. There is a complement of 45 full-time school counsellors in schools. We have established achievement centres at Canberra high school, Campbell high and Wanniassa for years 7 and 8 students who are at risk of disengaging. There are similar programs in place for years 9 and 10 students at colleges in the north, central and south parts of the city.
The families and schools together, FAST, team support families in ACT public schools who are at risk of disengaging. One that you would be familiar with, Madam