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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 5 Hansard (8 May) . . Page.. 1338 ..

MS DUNDAS (4.41): I rise to speak on retention rates. The motion Mr Pratt has moved refers to ABS figures released at the end of February, not last week as the motion reads, and what they show. Retention rates for students from year 7 to year 12 in the ACT, according to the ABS, are at 89.3 per cent. This rate is to be commended, as it is a full 10 percentage points higher than that for the nearest state. However, the 2001 rate was the first increase since 1991 and lower than retention rates measured in 1991, 1996 and 1999. This situation should not be seen as an excuse for complacency. We should always be striving to improve it.

I point out to Mr Pratt that "apparent retention rate" is a technical term of the ABS. All the Labor Party documents Mr Pratt talked about referred to an ABS term. The ABS term is described on the ABS website as "the number of full-time school students in a designated level/year of education expressed as a percentage of their respective cohort group". The website goes on to say:

Care should be exercised in the interpretation of apparent retention rates since a range of factors affecting calculation have not been taken into account. At the Australia level these include students repeating a year of education, migration and other net changes to the school population. At lower levels of disaggregation, additional factors affecting the data, such as enrolment policies (which contribute to different age/grade structures between States and Territories), inter-sector transfer and interstate movements of students have not been taken into account.

Part-time students are currently excluded from apparent retention rates; the effect of this exclusion varies between States and Territories.

The statement in Mr Pratt's motion that retention rates in the ACT have been rising at seven times the national average and that ACT retention rates are the highest in Australia is not a false statement. However, as has been brought to the attention of this chamber, it is quite misleading.

I now move to the second part of the motion, which refers to the ACT schools system. As many in this Assembly know, I am a proud product of the ACT public school system. Since joining the Assembly, I have had the pleasure of attending graduation ceremonies at Lake Tuggeranong College and my old schools of Giralang Primary and Kaleen High. It was a privilege to be a part of these ceremonies and to see the joy, optimism, and success of children and young people as they were about to face a new school or a new life outside the education system.

For these students, as it was for me, teachers are a big part of our development of self and wellbeing. In my pool of teachers was Minister Wood just before he was elected to the First Assembly.

Mr Wood: I taught you well, didn't I?

MS DUNDAS: Yes, Mr Wood.

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