Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 05 Hansard (Thursday, 6 May 2010) . . Page.. 1856 ..
statistics basically say what they want. You might find that in a number of schools there are class sizes that are quite large, and inappropriately quite large, because they are balancing it from other areas where there is simply an insufficient number of students in a class. You have got to make sure that every class size is manageable and that you are not, basically, having classes which are either too small or too large, adding it all up and saying, “This all looks good because it is an average of 21,” when in fact in many classes you have got an inappropriate number of students, whether the number is too large or too small.
That is an issue that requires further attention when we look at the impact of class size. I think that class size does have an impact. The evidence that we have seen suggests that there are many other factors, most particularly the quality of the teacher, the quality of the principal and indeed the students themselves—what their socioeconomic make-up is, what disadvantage they may have. But class size is a factor and we need to keep a very close eye on the way the government is presenting the data.
I would like to again thank the chair for her stewardship, the other members of the committee and particularly, again, Dr Sandra Lilburn, who has been pretty busy of late.
MR BARR (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Planning, Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation and Minister for Gaming and Racing) (11.15): I will take the opportunity to respond to the particular point that Mr Hanson raised and to note, of course, that it has some correlation with the report that was previously tabled by the chair of the committee. I will again put on the record the government’s commitment to average class sizes of 21 but stress that it is average for a reason. That relates to enabling decisions to be made at a local school level on the most appropriate class size within that overall average policy. It is important to have that flexibility. Schools and principals should be making those decisions rather than politicians seeking to mandate those particular outcomes. The flexibility that is provided by the government’s policy is critical—
Mr Hanson interjecting—
MR BARR: The application of the policy in terms of transparency—for the benefit of those opposite, who seem to struggle tremendously with this concept—is that the number of students divided by the number of teachers then gives you the capacity to determine the average across the system. This is a very clear policy distinction, Madam Assistant Speaker. It remains the government’s view that average class sizes give the flexibility that schools need and that the single most important factor in achieving improved outcomes in education is the quality of the teacher. I have said that consistently and I will continue to say it. It is the single most important factor. There are a number of other factors that contribute. Class sizes are one of them, but they are not the most important factor. They never have been and they never will be.
Question resolved in the affirmative.