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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 10 Hansard (25 September) . . Page.. 3722 ..

MRS BURKE (continuing):

to child abuse for a teacher not to cuddle a hurt child because of the teacher's fear or school policy about touching.

There is an emerging need to examine and review the no touch and sexual abuse reporting policies and practices in our child-care centres and other educational institutions for young children. Guidelines and training for employers, pre-service teacher trainers and female teachers on things such as handling parents' questions about teacher gender and providing better support for male teachers must become the norm if we are to reverse this very concerning trend of males not entering the child-care and teaching professions. Initially, granted, some families may be a little reserved, but barriers can be removed, as was shown in the western Sydney child-care centre by engaging families in its programs, an integrated approach. I know that the government is interested in that type and style of education.

I believe that males can and do make a difference by working alongside parents, community groups and professional teachers. They must be given greater opportunities. As one male teacher said, "I believe that by being open with people and professional in our approach to relationships and our teaching, people will see that males have a lot to offer in all areas of education."Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask for the support of members.

MR PRATT (3.55): Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like to support Mrs Burke's comments about the necessity for more male role models in the teaching profession. I point to the very clear indications of declining boys' performances. We know that, over 12 years, there has been a steady trend in the growing gap between the performances of boys and girls, with the girls doing much better. There was a time when there needed to be a focus on bringing girls' educational standards up to the level of those of boys. Society needed to address that problem, and society did that extremely effectively. Somewhere in the process, another gap has occurred, and it is now time to address this.

We also know that there is a 4 per cent gap in the performance rate between girls and boys, up to year 12, and we know that a successful attainment at year 12, and going on to university, illustrates a performance gap of about 11 per cent. These are not just blips on the radar; they have been constant trends, and something needs to be done. We also know that there is a massive imbalance between the bad behaviour-men acting badly and boys acting badly-rates of boys and girls; so we have to ask ourselves: for the disengaged and badly-acting students, why is there something like a factor of 500 per cent? Why is there a ratio of something like 5:1-boys to girls?

Clearly, we must also recognise the problem where some boys and some girls from certain family backgrounds are having difficulty at school because of problems at home. I might say that my colleague, Mrs Burke, illustrated very clearly that this is an important factor in addressing these issues.

Against that background, I would like to focus today on more male role models in primary schools and high schools in the ACT. As at 30 June 2003, there were 3,054 full-time equivalent teachers employed by the Department of Education, Youth and Family Services. I thank Ms Gallagher for her answer to my question on notice, which revealed that number.

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