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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 5 Hansard (8 May) . . Page.. 1336 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

That could quite well be true. I certainly have confidence in the way our schools are working. I am glad to see this new Labor government is taking education more seriously, and I hope to see us doing much better in supporting children at risk.

Mr Pratt wanted to add a bit about literacy and numeracy. Numeracy and literacy are vitally important, but once again it is the demography of Canberra-the combination of class, affluence and education-that gives rise to the results.

If Mr Pratt is saying that good retention, good reading and good writing are proof of schools that deliver the best educational outcomes in the land, then we need to look at a much more complex picture than that. In fact, there are real dangers in narrowing the outcomes of education to that degree. That is well researched and reported on in a lot of academic work. I have quite a number of studies that I am happy to refer to Mr Pratt if he is interested in reading up more on why that narrow notion of education can be to the detriment of a broad educational experience which will have an important outcome for society as a whole.

MRS CROSS (4.35): The ACT has long had the best retention rate of high school students in Australia. Contrary to members who like to look at the negativity of retention rates, we must highlight the fact that we have been very successful, in no small part due to the efforts of the former Liberal government. Contrary to Labor myth and legend, the legacy of the former Liberal government in this area is impressive. Recent reports-independent reports, not Labor's pretend independent reports-clearly show that truth.

A number of common denominators contribute to the wellbeing of young people. Most often an education to the end of college that will provide the opportunity for a meaningful job will contribute to good physical and mental health, encourage stable family relationships, encourage a strong connection with the community and largely prevent involvement in criminal activity.

Short of calling education a magic bullet, school retention rates are vital to our young people. Consider the common characteristics of ACT prisoners in a recent year. Among, others, common factors are that over 90 per cent were male; just over half did not complete secondary school; more than half had a juvenile record; three-quarters were unemployed at the time of committing their offence; more than three-quarters had a history of illicit drug and alcohol abuse; and a third had previously been imprisoned.

When we consider this profile, a cycle of behaviour emerges. For one reason or another a child, in most cases a boy, drops out of high school. They are then unable to get regular employment and may begin using alcohol and illicit drugs. Often because of this, they become involved in criminal activity as a juvenile and then continue that lifestyle as an adult.

Obviously, not all those who leave school before the end of their college years will become criminals. Instead, they will be able to make the most of their opportunities and become connected with their communities. However, just as clearly, some do not. For

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