Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 06 Hansard (Wednesday, 23 June 2010) . . Page.. 2250 ..
Given that background, the ACT government accepted the challenge to renew public education. The Towards 2020: renewing our schools strategy was designed to deliver a public education system that was responsive to the needs of the community. The focus was squarely on education. Of course, the school system and schools exist for students—not the other way around.
An extensive consultation process was held over six months, and I am pleased to see that that remains a feature of this proposed amendment. More than 700 meetings occurred with school communities over that period—all with a view, though, to go back to that overarching issue about how we could improve the system for all students. An important principle in designing an education system is that it meets the needs of all students.
In putting together the proposal, the government took into consideration educational, social, economic and geographical issues. We looked at the provision of a range of options for families in making educational decisions for their children. We looked at the need to maintain and develop further excellence within the public school system. We looked to establish better curriculum pathways from preschool to year 12. We looked to introduce a new focus on early childhood education—I am pleased to see Mr Smyth endorsing that, finally—infant schooling, middle schooling and senior schooling and, most importantly, we wanted to ensure that each and every one of our schools, the vast majority of which were constructed more than 30 or 40 years ago, was appropriate for education through to 2020.
We looked at a range of social factors. We looked at the fact that the ACT population was ageing and that meant that in many suburbs educational and community needs were changing. We looked at the fact that parents were often driving their children past several local schools and dropping them off at schools closer to where they worked or where they studied. We looked at financial impacts and the situation for school infrastructure. We looked at the fact that the ACT education system cost ACT taxpayers, on average, 20 per cent more than other states and territories, and that we had a number of small schools where the cost of educating a student was significantly above even that high territory average. We looked at the demographics in each region down to an individual suburban level. We looked at where schools were located and the proximity of those schools to alternative education provision.
This occurred in 2006. Since then, our schools have flourished. After a decade of decline, public school enrolments have finally turned around. The trend line is pointing in the right direction. Reforms that impacted on five per cent of the student population have assisted 100 per cent of students in public education. Without these reforms, all students would not have benefited. These were hard decisions, but they were then backed by investment.
Towards 2020 contained many strategic and complementary reform initiatives. These included: a system-wide professional development initiative to improve teacher quality; introducing a 21st century curriculum framework; focusing on school standards; stronger support for students with a disability; extensive renewal of infrastructure and major capital upgrades in existing schools; nation-leading ICT