Page 2628 - Week 08 - Thursday, 30 June 2005

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education system. This is also exemplified in the budget’s misplaced priorities—interactive whiteboards and other supposed technological panaceas, which really mean quick fixes and throwing money at the problem, endless consultative bodies and task forces, instead of a focus on elementary learning and adequate teacher appointments and conditions. We can only hope that Ms Gallagher and her zealots do not do too much damage before the next election.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (10.11): Mr Speaker, I will start off with pre-schools. Initially I welcomed the increased funding of just under $8 million over four years to increase pre-school hours to 12 hours per week per child, although I have heard constituents say they are concerned about the way that is going to be implemented. Since then we have learned that the 12 hours will be implemented in a flexible way that allows parents to choose the most appropriate format of participation for their child.

However, since the announcement of this funding I have heard concerns from non-government pre-schools that there is a looming early childhood staffing crisis in the ACT and that this initiative is likely to exacerbate the problem; and, furthermore, that non-government services, which include a number of community schools around the ACT, are disadvantaged. I think it is a shame that the initiative is driving a wedge between public and private early childhood services. Perhaps more consultation and consideration would have found a win-win solution here, and perhaps it still could. So I urge the minister to give this some attention.

In regard to schools, in my first speech on the budget I also welcomed the allocation of additional funding to SCAN—funding to support the access and participation needs of students with a disability—to meet the needs of increasing numbers of students with a disability. I stand by the need for additional funding to assist students with a disability but some important concerns have been raised with me about this program. Examples of these concerns, which I raised at the estimates committee, include the following: the process can be demeaning for students and families since it focuses on deficits rather than strengths. The funds are capped and are often insufficient to fully address individual needs. This has led to failure in some cases, which contributes to the perception that intergrading students with a disability does not work. Funds are used at the discretion of principals, which works well in some schools but not in others. Increasingly, students with a disability, especially students with particular needs such as autism, are being forced into specialist units and therefore there is decreasing participation in mainstream settings for them. I urge the minister to consult with families and undertake a full evaluation of this program to measure the extend to which it is enabling students to participate in mainstream education rather than segregated settings and the extent to which it is empowering rather than frustrating families.

I support the allocation of student support funds that will provide funding to government schools to enable children and young people to have the opportunity to access and participate in school activities regardless of economic circumstances. I am disappointed that there are not more student support initiatives. The Greens would have liked to have seen an increase in the school counselling and the schools as communities programs, and were hoping to see some expansion of student support programs to preschools.

Lastly, the review of colleges is a reasonable initiative but it is our understanding—and I think we have heard it here again tonight—that there is considerable concern in the

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