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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 5 Hansard (8 May) . . Page.. 1344 ..

MR PRATT (5.06): I support Ms Tucker's amendment. The Education Committee has discussed retention rates from year 10 to year 12. Our vocational education and training system needs to be looked at. We believe it needs to be revamped. We think it is a very important vehicle in the retention of schoolchildren beyond year 10. We also need to revamp the identification process through years 7, 8 and 9 to assist children, to counsel them, to seek pathways for them beyond year 10 and to ensure that we do everything we possibly can to retain our schoolchildren.

For those reasons, I support this amendment. I will have a lot more to say at other times about vocational training. For now, I am quite happy to reinforce support on this side for the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

MR PRATT (5.09): The minister pooh-poohed what I said about the aberration in retention rates as simply an exercise in sour grapes. I repeat that it was simply that-an aberration.

If Mr Corbell bothers to examine the trend in retention rates over the last six to eight years, he will see that the statistic he referred to is merely a minor blip on a long trend line. His criticism of me seizing on and defining that blip as an aberration rather than admitting himself that that is exactly what it was is a disappointing response from the minister.

The minister implied that I am concerned only about retention rates or literacy and numeracy rates and that I do not give much of a fig about how we might focus on children at risk or children in year 10 we might need to focus on to retain their presence in school. This is an absurd comment by the minister. Of course, I am concerned about those issues.

I was a bit surprised that Ms Tucker claimed that I have politicised the retention rates issue rather than focusing upon what matters for the greater good of the community. I fail to understand why Ms Tucker should criticise me for calling Mr Corbell and the government to order in relation to the debate on retention rates. Ms Tucker is perhaps being a little bit inconsistent, and that disappoints me. In this place last year, when the then opposition criticised the then government about retention rates, I understand that Ms Tucker did not respond. She did not call the opposition to order. There was thundering silence.

I do not understand why Ms Tucker should criticise me for what she sees as my focus on literacy, numeracy and retention rates or why she believes I think these things are far more important than getting to grips with the other issues we have to get to grips with in education. She points out the obvious, as did Mr Corbell-that perhaps I need to focus on children at risk and those in danger of falling out after year 10. I know that and I do not need to be told how to suck eggs.

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