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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 8 Hansard (7 August) . . Page.. 2436 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

20 October would look at them. I note the time the report has been brought down, but obviously I think there is a lot in it. There are some recommendations here that seem very sensible, and whoever is the government after 20 October would seek to bring them in.

MR WOOD (11.14): Mr Speaker, I too, as a former teacher, will make some comments. A fair part of my teaching career was concerned with children at risk, mainly at risk of low educational achievement. I read this report with great interest and I commend it. I think it says many fine things. I would wish that it had emphasised more strongly the central role of the classroom teacher. Good educational benefits for all students derive from the quality and the dedication of that teacher.

I worry that sometimes where problems emerge with children there is a tendency in our community to immediately seek specialist help. In many circumstances that is essential. But it is that classroom teacher who has the prime responsibility for every student in every class, and I would not wish it to be seen that teachers would ever think, and I hope they do not, "I can't handle this. It has to be handled by somebody else." Yes, by all means let us have all the help that is possible, but it is essential that the teacher focuses on every child.

Early in my teaching career I handled a large number of children who came to me showing signs of obvious neglect in their classroom. They were not quick to learn, that is true, and because they were not quick to learn they fell behind more and more and more, but we ascertained that they were capable of much higher achievements than they were reaching. It is a lesson I learnt, and it is one that all teachers should learn; that they have to get to each child and work individually with that child-it is not always easy in the classroom situations we have-to keep that individual up to educational marks. I have seen over many years a tendency, not a great tendency, to seek help when much more could be done within that classroom.

Having said that, and having taught in this system in the ACT, I think it is an excellent system full of dedicated teachers, but let us always remember the core role of every teacher and their attitude to every student in their class. We all know that we could walk into some classes, any classes perhaps, and find there are some children under-achieving. We know that. That situation does occur. Those under-achievers are capable of much more, and very often without specialist attention.

I note there are comments in the report about the training that teachers receive. If I do have any concern and complaint, I think sometimes our teaching education programs do not always focus on the need the teachers have to know how to handle some of the educational problems they will experience when they eventually get into the schools. Let us not forget that teacher. That is where it starts. Help may be needed at times-often it is essential-but it is the teacher who has the core responsibility.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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