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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 1 Hansard (30 April) . . Page.. 217 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

Mr Speaker, I am pleased to present the Schools Authority (Amendment) Bill 1998. This amendment deletes references to the Schools Authority Advisory Committee in the ACT and ensures that we are not in breach of the legislation.

The Schools Authority Act is out of date and requires revision. In fact, this amendment begins the process of making sure the legislative basis for education in the ACT accurately reflects current needs for governance, administration and appropriate delivery of education. The second part of this process of review, which I would like to foreshadow now, is a revision of the Education Act 1937. Changes to this Act will be part of a separate legislative amendment. The Education Act is now 61 years old and it is certainly time that it too was brought up to date.

Last year Mr Moore drew the Assembly's attention to the fact that the Schools Authority Advisory Committee specified in the Schools Authority Act 1976 no longer operated. Mr Moore was correct. Following self-government, the Schools Authority Advisory Committee lapsed. Its last meeting was held in July 1989. The government of the day established a Consultative Committee on Schools to advise the Minister, which observed the intent of the legislation. Over the intervening period other consultative and advisory bodies representing client and interest groups have continued to advise successive Ministers on matters relating to education. This function is presently accomplished through two bodies, the Ministerial Advisory Council on Government Schooling and the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Non-Government Schooling.

Mr Speaker, as I said earlier, the Schools Authority Act predates self-government in the ACT. The function of the advisory committee prior to self-government was to advise the authority rather than the Minister. Under self-government it is also more appropriate to have a committee advising the Minister directly. The Government, in line with its election commitment, intends to undertake a review of education legislation this year. I will announce details of this review shortly. Because there is widespread community interest in education in the ACT, community consultation is of paramount importance in reviewing education legislation.

My thinking at this stage, however, is that a discussion paper on the review of education legislation would be prepared to facilitate widespread consultation. The paper would propose the terms of reference for the review, examine other States' approaches to education legislation review, and explore the key issues for education in the ACT. The main issues would include such things as school governance, and the role and power of government school boards, which is a particularly important issue in the light of the implementation of school-based management. Focus sessions with stakeholders could be conducted later this year. An exposure draft of a new education Act could be released for comment early next year, and final legislation could then be prepared.

As we work towards enhancing partnerships with parents and the broader community in the Territory and continue our work towards enhancing schools' capacities to manage their own affairs, we must have a legislative foundation incorporating and guiding these concepts. I consider that this process for the review of the legislative basis for education in the ACT, beginning with the above amendment, is a vital step in maintaining the excellence and the innovative nature of education in the ACT.

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