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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 1 Hansard (13 February) . . Page.. 35 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

With the support of and close advice from a close-knit group of senior officers in the department and, when the issue came up, my cabinet colleagues-and I thank them for their support for this package-we have developed this package which will enable the smooth implementation of this policy over several years; in fact over the next three years.

I issue a challenge to Mr Stanhope and his colleagues and to Ms Tucker and anyone else who might be thinking about voting against the budget: will you vote against the budget that will provide smaller class sizes in the ACT; will you vote against such a budget as you voted last year against the budget that included teacher salary increases of up to 12 per cent? Will you vote against this budget? Will you try to block the recruitment of the first group of 46 additional teachers? I certainly hope not.

Our plan is that the extra teachers will take up their positions in classes at the beginning of next year-that is, the February 2002 school year. The class sizes for Years 1 and 2 will drop to 25, which is the kindergarten size. That is the first step.

The same process will then occur for recruitment for 2003. A further 46 teachers will be engaged so that in 2003 the class sizes for the full cohort-kindergarten to Year 2-will drop from 25 to 23. During the recruitment round of 2003 a further 48 teachers will be recruited for the start of the 2004 year and all class sizes in February 2004 will reduce to 21 for kindergarten to Year 2.

Of course, there are a few logistical arrangements that will need to be put in place. So this program will be accompanied by the need to provide some additional classrooms in some schools. Logically this will be in the growing areas of Canberra such as south Tuggeranong and Gungahlin. Also, some of our older larger schools will require additional classrooms which will be provided by way of demountables. I think we have already announced that the cost of those demountables is some $3.5 million. The entire program, by the time it is fully implemented three years from now, will require 140 extra teachers and an additional 117 classes. The annual ongoing full cost of implementing this policy, which will affect over 9,000 primary school students in government schools, will be in the order of $11 million to $12 million a year.

This is a major change to our school structures. It is not possible to implement such a change in one year. You need to do things like recruit teachers, and early childhood teachers at that.

Mr Stanhope: And how much money do you-

MR STEFANIAK: Stop carping, Mr Stanhope. Your colleague Mr Quinlan claims that we are spreading the cost out for political and financial purposes. Nothing could be further from the truth. The advice I have is that we do need time to bed down those changes and a graduated implementation process is the best way to do it. It is commonsense. I have already mentioned that we are ensuring that we get the right teachers. It is as simple as that. Unlike those opposite, Mr Hird, we listen to the experts. It is quite obvious that this is something that those opposite cannot or will not do.

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