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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 6 Hansard (14 June) . . Page.. 1766 ..

MR BERRY: I am glad that somebody asked, "Why?" I have been waiting for that question. Quite often, Mrs Burke, it relates to the catchment area of the school. If it is a low socioeconomic area, or if it has a high population of kids with a non-English speaking background and those sorts of things, you can end up with a low score result. You create major difficulties for schools if you report performances, say, between a school in a low socioeconomic area and one in a high socioeconomic area where students are better off economically. Of course there are going to be differences but you do not want those sorts of comparisons drawn publicly. If you do it ends up meaning that not only will the schools be disadvantaged but so too will the students. Also, students from low socioeconomic areas are not going to be able to travel to find a better school.

Mrs Burke: Free school buses.

Mr Smyth: Yes they will. Free bus transport.

MR BERRY: Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, we get the smart alec interjection "Free school buses". So, in Mr Smyth's ideal world and marketplace, you provide a free school bus to take them to another school until their school collapses in a heap. How ridiculous can you be? This is the difficulty with the government: they do not understand, or refuse to understand, the implications of their actions. They are blinded by an ideological commitment to market comparisons.

This is a dreadful piece of work. It has the potential to destroy schools and it has the potential to destroy people. This government will say, "You are being overprotective." Well, they can say that about me. It is a badge I will proudly wear because students and our schools are worth being overprotective about, and that is why I support this motion.

MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education and Attorney-General) (4.57): I listened to what Mr Berry had to say and I will agree with him on one thing: you cannot afford not to be overprotective of our students. You need to do that. You need to ensure that our students have the very best possible education. You need to do things that will ensure that if they need help they will get it, and that they will not fall through cracks and not be picked up by the system. Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, that is why we test and that is why we report to parents. That is why literacy and numeracy testing has been so popular in the community.

Mr Moore: And Wayne opposed it.

MR STEFANIAK: My colleague, Mr Moore, interjected, "And Wayne opposed it." I am not quite sure about that but I certainly do not think he was overly keen on it back in 1997; indeed, nor was the Council of Parents and Citizens Associations, I seem to recall. We came up, I think, with a very good system and it has been reassessed.

In fact, Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, I am a bit amazed to see that part (3) of Mr Berry's motion calls on the government to abandon its, I would say, very sensible proposals to report school results and to engage in further consultation with stakeholders on ways to improve reporting to parents, and to increase government accountability for improving educational outcomes for all students. That is exactly what we did last year.

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