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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 5 Hansard (8 May) . . Page.. 1333 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

An important point about retention rate figures issued by the ABS and other bodies is that on occasion there is significant variation. That is what we saw last year compared to this year. The extent of this variation is a matter of concern for me and is something I have already indicated I would like to see more closely examined. The Department of Education and Community Services is currently researching this matter. They will be providing me with further advice.

I would like to point out the difference between how this government looks at retention rates and how the previous government viewed them. What makes the Labor government different is that we deeply care about the small percentage of students who do not complete year 12 or vocational education. We do not seek to play the situation down. We do not seek to say it is an aberration in an upwards trend. How is that for a spin? Instead, we seek to acknowledge that it has occurred and take steps to address it.

In January both the Liberal federal minister, Dr Nelson, and Mr Pratt were quoted in the media as questioning the need for students to continue at school to year 12. So it is quite extraordinary that, in the same environment as the potential minister for education says he does not believe that all students need to continue to year 12, he criticises our comment about poor retention rates. Perhaps he is just trying to justify his broader ideological agenda.

Unlike the federal Liberal minister, Dr Nelson, who obviously saw the value of higher education at least, and our local Liberal member, Mr Pratt, the ACT government believes that all children should be encouraged to pursue their schooling till at least year 12 or a vocational equivalent. Only by doing that are we giving and equipping young people with the skills they need and giving them the best chance they can have to become effective citizens and participants in our community.

Because a percentage of students show up in the retention rates as not completing year 12, the government is committed to expanding support for those students who are at risk of not completing. We are continuing to support programs aimed at helping students to make the most of their educational opportunities, and we intend to continue this focus in the upcoming ACT budget.

We intend to make every effort to support those students who are not making the most of their opportunities while at school. That is why we are supporting programs aimed at those students, and that is why I am asking my department for further research into the fluctuations that occur.

We need to emphasise that every student should be seeking to get to year 12 or vocational equivalent. Only in that way are we going to get the best possible outcome for those young people.

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