Page 2242 - Week 07 - Thursday, 23 June 2005

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MS PORTER: I have a supplementary question. Given the statements by Dr Nelson, can you provide further details to the Assembly on definite funding commitments that the commonwealth has made to ACT government and non-government schools?

MS GALLAGHER: Last week I reluctantly entered into an agreement with the federal government to ensure continuity of funding for ACT government schools. Unfortunately, the new round of funding was contingent upon a number of new federal regulations. The new agreement will see $552 million in funding flow to ACT government and non-government schools from 2005 to 2008, the vast majority going to the non-government school sector. Non-government schools will receive $400 million over that period, while ACT government schools will receive $152 million.

The regulations underpinning the agreement have not yet been finalised, which is of concern in itself, but it is expected that the way schools report to parents will be highly prescriptive. I do not believe that that will produce any improved educational outcomes. Indeed, the federal minister has not been able to indicate where he believes this increased reporting will provide any improvement in educational outcomes.

Under the federal government’s changes, it is proposed that a wide range of school performance information be reported to parents. However, this information will add little to parents’ understanding of their children’s performance. There is no doubt that the requirements will increase the burden on schools to collect the proposed data and there is no doubt that it will consume valuable teacher time.

The federal government’s draft regulations also require schools to administer common national literacy and numeracy testing in years 3, 5, 7 and 9. The ACT already conducts it in those years, which informs individual student learning and the development of school literacy and numeracy programs.

In 2004, the ACT Government School Education Council reviewed ACT school reporting to parents and identified high levels of community and parent satisfaction with the ACT’s current system. The ACT is not in a position where it can refuse commonwealth funding of $552 million and we will continue to negotiate on the federal government’s proposed reporting requirements to ensure the best outcome for students in the ACT.

Returning to Dr Nelson’s challenge to states and territories to match federal funding, I should point out that the Stanhope government, since coming to power in 2001, has increased per capita funding to ACT government school students by $2,711. In that time, the federal government has increased funding by a pathetic $187 per capita.

If the federal government had met its own challenge and matched the funding that the Stanhope government has provided to education, ACT government schools would have enjoyed an additional $90 million worth of funding, funding that could have gone to having better schools, better facilities and better educational outcomes for government school students in the territory. I reverse the challenge and call upon Dr Nelson to heed his own call and match the funding increases of the Stanhope government.

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