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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 5 Hansard (8 May) . . Page.. 1335 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

Department of Education and Community Services' annual reports it appears to be of the order of 3-7 per cent of students who enrolled in Year 11 in the previous year.

Overall, the Council of P&Cs reported that data provided by the Department of Education and Community Services indicates that, over the last decade, approximately 20 per cent of students who enrol in Year 11 do not receive a Year 12 Certificate in the following year.

We know that about 20 per cent of students do not get the year 12 certificate. We need to talk about the dropout rate before year 11, Mr Pratt, not different versions of retention rates. We know there is a problem for about 20 per cent of students. We need to do the work to understand how we can better support those student in our schools.

That is why we had the inquiry into adolescents and young adults at risk of not achieving satisfactory education and training outcomes. It was a response to that issue. I have heard this new Labor government say they will progress the report of that inquiry and report to this place on its recommendations. We know that the department is working on a response to the report, which highlighted the issue of kids at risk in our school system.

I welcome a debate about retention rates and kids at risk. In my view, it is unnecessary to try to sidetrack the debate with debate about who has the right percentage. That does not matter as much as the fact that kids need help and families need help. It might be interesting for members to reflect on the fact that the national youth affairs research scheme report Under-age school leaving (Brookes et al. 1997) establishes numerous factors as contributing to underage school leaving. These are continual experience of academic failure, inflexible curriculum, teaching strategies, alienating school environments, family conflict and breakdown, low self-esteem, poor student/teacher relationships, disinterest in education, and disruptive behaviour, complemented by the factors of homelessness, poor parenting, family conflict, poverty, inadequate behaviour management, devaluing of education, student behaviour, substance abuse, and educational structures, curriculum, procedures and staffing.

Schools in Canberra are struggling with these issues every day. Schools and teachers are doing an incredibly good job under stressful circumstances. That is why the Labor Party, before the election, supported by the Greens, did not see free school buses as the priority of education spending. We have to look at the issues affecting the 20 per cent of students who are not having a successful and fulfilling experience, for all the social reasons as well as the difficulties in schools. Schools are not resourced well enough, even though they do a fantastic job under the circumstances.

I agree that we need to be talking about these issues. I do not think it is correct to refer to them in simplistic terms about having confidence in the ACT school system as leading the nation in educational outcomes. For whom? Are we saying that we lead the way in educational outcomes for children who are homeless? What are we talking about here? Are we saying we lead the nation for those students who come from families that have a reasonable income and a reasonable education level? Is that what we are talking about?

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