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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 12 Hansard (Wednesday, 27 October 2010) . . Page.. 5207 ..


Now is not the time for gratuitous self-congratulations. The past several weeks have witnessed one of the most heavy-handed cuts of school support services for our public school system for quite a while. It targeted the most vulnerable in our school community first. Though the minister has intimated that services are not all necessarily being cut and that they will be delivered in a different service model, the fact is that information is scant. Whilst students and teachers are facing outright cuts to much-needed support services, this “we’ll figure it out as we go” approach is just not good enough. Nor is the enormous angst that has been created for parents and teachers, not to mention students.

Here is a case in point. Mr Hargreaves’s motion wishes to note the ACT government’s investments in literacy and numeracy to help improve achievement. Yet in the context of the dividend cuts, English as a second language support staff will be axed and five classroom teacher positions and one SLC position in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander literacy and numeracy program will be discontinued.

If it were not for the Canberra Liberals’ proactive actions in organising a community meeting to lend some exposure to their concerns, we would have also seen further cuts to support programs to students with hearing and visual impairment. Mr Speaker, can you believe that the government were naive enough to think that text-to-speech computer programs could be evermore used to teach vision-impaired students and perhaps even one day replace braille? In essence, they were promoting illiteracy to blind students, not literacy.

Again, the most vulnerable members of our school community are getting the short end of the stick and in this case are also the first to bear the tough changes the minister spoke of. There were no consultations conducted, no future road map provided, just intimations by the minister that things will change.

Enough time has passed since the publication of this year’s NAPLAN results that it would be refreshing to hear how the government intends to tackle some of the findings from the test. For example, the tests identified that 470 year 9 students did not have the most basic writing skills, not to mention the fact that there are between 0.3 per cent and 2.7 per cent fewer students passing the tests than in 2008. Equally, what will the government be doing to address the fact that year 5 students in the ACT came second to Victoria in numeracy and punctuation and third in spelling to Victoria and New South Wales?

One of the problems with motions of this sort is that they have a habit of reducing our students to mere statistics. Performance needs to be measured if meaningful improvements are to be made. This is fine if conducted in the best interests of our students’ education. However, this motion takes on a self-serving purpose and does not call on the government for further constructive action.

Mr Hargreaves’s motion seeks to validate ACT Labor, not how we can further improve our education system. It misses the point about schools—that is, schools are places where students are challenged, encouraged to be the best that they could be, inspired by ideas and many more. This motion’s implicit myopic focus on achievement and comparative NAPLAN scores misses this point completely and, in


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