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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 4 Hansard (11 April) . . Page.. 980 ..

MR PRATT (continuing):

was able to report substantially. I also commend the various stakeholders for their diligence in coming forward and presenting their arguments in some balance and in sufficient detail.

The report, in accordance with the appropriate terms of reference, was essentially aimed at collecting and reporting on a broad range of opinion. It was never meant to be an analysis of budgetary resource allocations or priorities. Indeed, it is fortuitous that the committee was not required to examine the resources that the government is considering allocating to the sector, as the Treasurer's budget consultation document for 2002-03 was not received by the committee until some four working days before the reporting deadline. The chair, Ms MacDonald, has outlined some of the priority areas. I would simply say that I fervently hope that the government will take this report and wisely allocate the resources needed to best meet the community's priorities.

I would remind the government that the ACT education system is a rich tapestry of diverse educational capabilities. Diversity and choice are the strengths of one of this nation's leading jurisdictional education systems and the government will need essentially to keep this model in place. We would hope to see the government add value and further develop the capabilities already in place. Reinforcing diversity is important because the balance among the government sector, Catholic systemic, independent and special schools is the secret of success in the ACT. That is what the community expects.

Mr Speaker, there is always more that can be done in the government school sector, and the attitude of the Education Committee in this place reflects that. We are all agreed on and see the need to address children at risk, children with disabilities, class size reduction, safe and harmonious teaching and school environments as perhaps the first group of priorities. Whilst not seeking to dramatise the situation as it stands in the ACT, I think we would all wisely acknowledge that there are signs of significant pressures building on the government school sector in the ACT as well as anywhere else in the country.

I believe that, as well as addressing the government sector priority needs, the government must also ensure that increased resources go to systemic and independent schools to reinforce their programs for children at risk and disabled children. Indeed, for those programs, I believe that the government has a moral obligation to ensure that resources are allocated equally for every child identified in these categories across all sectors.

Mr Speaker, there are other priorities I would hope to see the government address. They are vocational education and training and perhaps further developing our international baccalaureate capability in at least two more colleges, setting aside money for scholarships for children who do not have the means to undertake international baccalaureate programs. I would like to see resources put into obligatory drugs education. I would like to see better strategies put in place to support our teachers and our school staff in respect of bullying and violence. Finally, I would like to see teacher training and ongoing teacher development. I should also add that I would like to see the government looking at putting further resources into boys education as well.

Mr Speaker, I commend this report to the government and will watch with close interest the way in which the government approaches the budgeting exercise.

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