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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 09 Hansard (Wednesday, 25 August 2010) . . Page.. 3841 ..

Specific per capita funding information for public, Catholic and independent schools is collated and published by the Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs through the national report on schooling in Australia. As part of the annual budget process, the Department of Education and Training determines the per capita funding to our Catholic and independent schools as a percentage of funding provided to public schools. I note that in the 2010-11 budget this was 17.8 per cent and not the 17.2 per cent described in the motion. Yes, this is below the national average. This is because the method to derive this percentage takes into account the unique nature of each Australian education system.

The funding for our Catholic and independent schools is influenced by factors such as the geographical location of the school, the proportion of students, the fee levels charged, and the socioeconomic status within the jurisdictions. Indeed, the socioeconomic indexes for the ACT show relatively high levels of social advantage. While these have shortcomings, as I have noted earlier, no-one would deny that here in the ACT we are a relatively less needy community than elsewhere in the country. This is the same reason that ACT public schools receive below average per capita funding from the federal government.

Another important factor to consider in the context of this debate is the ACT government’s tremendously valuable in-kind support to Catholic and independent schools, most particularly through the free grant of land. In short, Mr Doszpot’s motion does not compare apples with apples.

The ACT community is rightly proud of the quality of our Catholic and independent schools in the ACT, and the ACT government shares that pride. Our vibrant, diverse school sector includes systemic Catholic schools educating one in five of our students, independent schools educating another one in five, and a growing public system teaching around three in five ACT students.

Our school sector provides to parents in the territory and in surrounding New South Wales a diverse educational choice. This choice includes large Anglican schools and small parent-controlled Christian schools, an Islamic school, a Steiner school, a Montessori school, boarding schools, schools that cater for children when they are in preschool years all the way through to year 12, systemic Catholic primary and high schools, and a diverse and growing public school sector that I am very proud to lead. Our Catholic and independent schools are strong performers; strong in student numbers, strong in student academic success, and strong in the provision of pastoral care. I am proud to say that, as minister for education, I am minister for every ACT student in every ACT school.

In conclusion, this government has a clear vision for the future of education in the territory. We will take the hard decisions. We will make change for the better. The poor kid will keep up. The bright kid will be challenged. Every student will have the opportunity to become their best. We will end the old public versus private debate. All children in all schools should get the best education possible. That is the way of the future, Mr Speaker. That is why I will move the amendment that is before members today.

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