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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 10 Hansard (4 September) . . Page.. 3049 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

will be chaired by the Director of Schools, Northern District, and its members will include an experienced alternative educator, the principal, the board chair and a teacher from Dickson College. The current SWOW board chair and a present student of SWOW will be invited to be on that committee. In addition, the steering committee will be able to co-opt persons with relevant expertise and understanding to assist them in their task.

We will be establishing an executive teaching position for a specific period to work exclusively on the curriculum and educational arrangements for the alternative high school program. The task of that person will be to develop an educational blueprint for the establishment of the new program. In close cooperation with the steering committee, that planning teacher will develop the framework necessary for the creation of a viable and exciting program which caters for students who are unsuited to mainstream schooling. A number of tasks will be developed - a statement of philosophy, operating principles, a broad statement of intended outcomes, and also a framework for the curriculum, organisation, teaching methods and a student welfare approach as well.

Mr Speaker, it is easy to understand that there will always be a few people who will not be pleased with any changes being made to the present arrangements at SWOW, and there has been speculation on the future of SWOW in the press.

Mr Berry: Like everybody who is there. All of them.

MR STEFANIAK: Not quite, Mr Berry. There has been political lobbying by students and parents apprehensive of change. I am sure there are some students and some parents who will be apprehensive about any change. I believe that the changes will be positive and the new arrangements will provide improved opportunities for a wide range of young people, Ms McRae.

Ms McRae: Why do you not answer my question?

MR STEFANIAK: I think the report which you have referred to, Ms McRae, speaks for itself. I have made copies available to people in the Assembly, including you, and I think the review has produced an informative and useful report. Mr Speaker, I have met with a number of people from SWOW. I have had at least two meetings with various representatives from SWOW. I will be meeting with the chair of the SWOW board next week to discuss issues relevant to the report and to discuss the future.

I think the Department of Education and Training and its teachers, Ms McRae, have a very strong duty of care in relation to all of our students, especially our students under 15 years of age - the compulsory years of schooling. We need to concern ourselves with the provision of effective education for high school students seeking alternative education. It is essential for students to be in a receptive, supporting and harassment-free environment, and we would expect all our schools to be like this. Mr Speaker, the most feasible option is to create a new program at the Dickson College site and a similar one on the south side of Canberra. This will make possible closer collaboration and a broadening of educational opportunities for many of the students who are now attending SWOW.

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