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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 9 Hansard (22 August) . . Page.. 3161 ..

MR CORBELL: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. Chief Minister, which milestones, if any, has Impulse or Qantas indicated they may not be able to meet?

MR HUMPHRIES: As I have indicated, one of the milestones is late. I do not have the information on which milestone that is, so I will take that part of the question on notice. There are indications at this stage that one of the milestones will not be met. I cannot tell the Assembly what that milestone is now, so I will also take that question on notice and report to the Assembly.

Schools-class sizes

MR HIRD: My question is to the Minister for Education, Mr Stefaniak. Minister, you have recently announced that you will reduce class sizes for kindergarten to year 2 students in government sector schools. What will be the impact of these class size reductions on literacy and numeracy results for our students, and how will this program affect educational outcomes?

MR STEFANIAK: Thanks, Mr Hird, for the question. It is a good question. As you rightly said, we announced in March this year that we would embark on a program to reduce class sizes for kindergarten, year 1 and year 2.

Mr Berry: It will fall just short of what Labor is going to do.

MR STEFANIAK: I will come to that. The program will be phased in over a two-year period, starting next year-actually, I think that should be three years, Harold-with a reduction of year 1 and year 2 classes to 25, which is currently what we try in kindergarten.

Mr Hird: Next year?

MR STEFANIAK: Yes, next year. That will follow with reductions for all three years to 23 the following year, down to 21 for 2004. It will cost some $25 million over the full four-year period, Mr Hird. It involves building additional demountable classrooms at a number of schools. We will also be employing another 140 early childhood teachers. Recruitment of those teachers has already begun, because we need 46 teachers to hit the deck running at the start of 2002. We are busily recruiting those 46 new teachers now.

When I announced the initiative earlier this year, it was greeted with great enthusiasm by many educational commentators, the union and the P&C. It was described as the most important education initiative of the past 25 years-I think that is what someone said-certainly since self-government. It received universal acclaim. It should have a big effect on children's learning. You rightly highlighted literacy and numeracy. It is crucially important that we get those right in the early years.

Obviously, if you drop class sizes from an average of about 28 to 21, there is much more time for each child. That will enable our teachers to focus more on individual needs, address the areas of weakness and maintain better liaison with parents.

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