Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 19 September 2018) . . Page.. 3830 ..
As a member of the Assembly, as a parent and as one who speaks for many other Canberra parents, I commend this motion as drafted to this Assembly.
MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong) (5.02): This is certainly a very important issue that Ms Lee has raised today which affects many Canberra households. Along with the other parties in this place, the Greens are keen to ensure that students in ACT schools have high quality teaching environments with high quality teaching and support in the classrooms. We believe that a high quality, free and equitable education is a cornerstone of a healthy democracy and is fundamental to our continued prosperity as a community and a nation.
The results outlined in recent reports from the Australia Institute, the Auditor-General and the ANU regarding ACT school performance are concerning. It is true that ACT schools do tend to perform higher than the Australian average, when looking at mean NAPLAN scores, which compare results against the Australian average. However, when the ACT’s results are compared with other similar schools based on the level of socio-economic advantage and the change in performance over time, the Auditor-General found a systemic level of underperformance.
While I acknowledge the varying views on the efficacy of NAPLAN as an accurate measurement of student performance and its value as an educational tool, we cannot simply dismiss these results overall as inaccurate or not representative. Of course, there are many ways to judge and measure student performance, and many of the important lessons that our children learn at school cannot be measured through any written test. At the same time NAPLAN does provide important data on some fundamental education measures, such as literacy and numeracy, and we need to take seriously what appears to be a concerning trend of underperformance on these measures. I certainly agree that we need to see a clear plan of action to address this issue.
There is no doubt that this is a serious issue. The question is: how can we best address it in a way that builds on the many positive things that our schools are already doing and that takes into account the extensive research and consultation that has already taken place to date?
The ACT community rightly expects high performance from our schools, and we cannot deny the findings in these recent reports that our schools have underperformed when compared with those from statistically similar school groups. We must now take the best advice from our expert reports, as well as the feedback from students, teachers and parents, and implement an evidence-based approach. We also need to recognise that the level of underperformance is more severe for students from low SES backgrounds and that this has flow-on effects for schools in these areas which can further compound the problem.
In his 2016 report, Professor Stephen Lamb talked about the processes of “segregation” and “residualisation” which lead to the creation of sought-after schools that become large due to demand, and other schools that face the pressure of declining enrolments and a residual population of more disadvantaged students with higher or