Page 2630 - Week 08 - Thursday, 30 June 2005

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seems that new and non-urgent projects take precedence over election promises and core areas of government responsibility.

I believe that the ACT government could do much more to address skills shortages in the ACT and to assist disadvantaged students. I hope the next budget will see a more substantial demonstration of commitment in this area, but I am worried the government will still be propping up the arboretum and the dragway instead of education, disability and public housing.

MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Children, Youth and Family Support, Minister for Women and Minister for Industrial Relations) (10.21): I would like to make a few comments on this line and, for the large part, thank members for their contribution to the discussion on education and training. I think it is an area where there is a lot of agreement across the Assembly around priorities, need, what is good and what is going on in our schools, and that has come out tonight in the debate.

People have spoken on some issues that came up through estimates. There are issues around priorities of delivery in respect of the commitments made by the Labor Party, and we did go to the election with a strong commitment around education. Of course, like other ministers, I would have liked to have been able to do a bit more in this budget. But I think education did very well. We have got our commitment to pre-schools, extra money for students with a disability, extra money for VET growth, some money for the student support funds, the college review, additional money in the second appropriation to non-government schools for early childhood initiatives, a school building renewal fund and, of course, the very popular—coming, I think, second the arboretum—interactive whiteboards. This budget is a very responsible one in terms of what it delivered for education. It addressed core areas of need. In particular, it addressed the huge peak in training over the last two years, which was outside of our decision-making process.

I will touch on some issues that were raised. School maintenance is an issue that we face here in the ACT. We have 97 schools, of which the average age is 33 years—many of them are above 33 years—and we have significantly ageing schooling stock. It gets harder each year to ensure that those facilities remain as good as they can be so that parents are happy to send their kids to them. The stakeholders and I have constant discussion around how do we make our schools look nice so that public education can be promoted through them. For some reason school buildings are given a life span of 30 years. I do not know why that is but that is the advice I have been given. I do not know why you would not build them for longer than that, but our ageing stock is, of course, a real issue for us. There is an additional $2 million in this year’s budget which is in addition to the around $11 million that will go into the capital works upgrade program to deal with more and more work in schools across the ACT.

I would like to touch on some of the comments that were made around the curriculum. Mrs Dunne would have us believe that there is a crisis in curriculum of enormous proportions when, in fact, our students do very well. They do very well nationally and they do very well internationally. They do very well in areas of numeracy particularly. I have concerns around writing and we have seen in the benchmark reports of last year

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