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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 5 Hansard (9 May) . . Page.. 1412 ..

MS MacDONALD (continuing):

We are looking at trying to get as many people as possible involved with vocational education and training. There are many people across the ACT who are involved with that. We would like as many of the people who are involved as possible to provide advice to the committee inquiry on what programs they run and what part they play in vocational education and training within the ACT. We would also like to visit as many of the different programs-colleges, registered training organisations, et cetera, as possible within the ACT. We want to compare them with other states and the Northern Territory to make the vocational education and training sector in the ACT the best in the country-one to which other states, territories, and even countries, aspire.

MR PRATT: Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a statement about this inquiry.

Leave granted.

MR PRATT: This inquiry is extremely important. I believe it is a major educational policy area priority, and I am delighted that Ms MacDonald, Ms Dundas and I are at one on this.

There are many benefits which should flow from this inquiry. I will select a couple of these, which I consider to be screaming priorities. I feel that picking up year 10 students who might otherwise drop out is very important, both for them as individuals and for the community in general.

As we debated in this place yesterday, the retention of students is a priority concern for all of us. The crux of this issue and why VET is important boils down to this: not all students want to go on to university, so a well-balanced VET program reflecting the employment needs of the ACT is critical to meeting the needs of these students. I think this VET inquiry is well organised to address this high priority concern.

There is another burning priority in high school education in the ACT. This is what I personally believe to be a top-shelf issue. I think my colleagues on the education committee would feel the same as I do on this. I refer to the issue of children at risk and, coupled with that, the growing problem of disruptive behaviour in schools.

It is quite likely that the needs of a small percentage of our high school students, who are apparently disruptive and/or at risk, are simply not being met by our curriculum, as it currently stands. According to my instincts, an imaginative VET program would go a long way to resolving these types of mixed issues. This is a classic example of what we mean by diversity and choice in schools.

Mr Speaker, the previous government did reinvigorate the long-neglected VET program-however, there is much more to be done to further develop VET. We are delighted that the government also demonstrates a great interest in VET. Hopefully, this Assembly inquiry will go a long way to encouraging the government in this matter.

Report No 1

MS MacDONALD: I seek leave to move a motion authorising the publication of report No 1 of the Standing Committee on Education.

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