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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 5 Hansard (8 May) . . Page.. 1332 ..

MR PRATT (continuing):

While we know that New South Wales students from Sutton, Hall, Queanbeyan, Yass and other feeder areas transfer into the ACT college system and many students from ACT non-government schools also do so, it is reassuring to know that the innovative and intelligent programs such as high schools for the new millennium created by the former Liberal government undoubtedly provided incentives for retaining students at school and preventing dropouts.

In conclusion, given this history, I call on the minister for education, Mr Corbell, to acknowledge that his party, when in opposition, slipped up regarding retention rates and, in recognition of the previous government's good strategy, as education minister, to ensure that the measures introduced by the former Liberal government, which proved so beneficial to retaining ACT school students in college, are retained and enhanced.

MR CORBELL (Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services, Minister for Planning and Minister for Industrial Relations) (4.20): This motion is important because it focuses on retention rates. Less important is that it is just a case of sour grapes from Mr Pratt. By his own admission in his speech, there was a reduction in retention rates last year. No matter how you attempt to portray that, Mr Pratt, it happened.

It was entirely responsible on the part of the then Labor opposition to raise the fact that there was a decline in retention rates. No matter how you try to put a spin on it, no matter how you try to excuse yourself, there was a decline in retention rates last year.

Mr Pratt: There was a minor aberration.

MR CORBELL: So there was a decline, was there, Mr Pratt?

Mr Pratt: A minor aberration over a very short time.

MR CORBELL: Was the minor aberration downwards or upwards?

Mr Pratt: A minor aberration against an upward trend over a long period of time.

MR CORBELL: You are trying hard, Mr Pratt. The only person you are convincing is yourself.

I certainly agree with Mr Pratt when he expresses confidence in the ACT school system as leading the nation in educational outcomes. It is good to see that level of endorsement and bipartisanship from the Liberal Party on this issue. But the real achievement is not the policy setting of any particular government. The real achievement is by schools and by teachers. We need to congratulate schools and teachers on their efforts, as evidenced in reports from bodies like the ABS and the Productivity Commission.

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