Page 2632 - Week 08 - Thursday, 30 June 2005

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We know how much money is in school bank balances. We know that there is around $16 million in school bank balances and that schools have some discretionary component—not all of that is discretionary. I reject the argument that schools cannot afford to teach certain courses.

We have introduced student support funds, and this is what Mrs Dunne got mixed up with in her speech when she said I did not understand my own election policy. Dr Foskey asked me about student support funds, which was an initiative of $2 million. The high school students support teams initiative was an election commitment of $12 million. We delivered on the student support funds in this budget. High school students support teams will have to wait for another year. But we have introduced the student support funds and they are in place.

Every school has on average an additional $5,000 to deal with excursions and other costs for students that cannot afford it. And that is on top of the $300,000 that goes into the school equity funds across 16 different schools—$300,000, divided up, goes into those schools where we know there are populations of young people who cannot afford materials for school or excursions. So that money is there in addition to the school-based management payments that have a component of money.

Mrs Dunne calls interactive whiteboards a gimmick. Again, this is the way children learn today. They learn through ICT. If you do not have good ICT in your schools for children to learn then they are going to be behind everybody else in the world. Members opposite can laugh at that but they should go and take some time and see how children learn today. They learn through computers and the interactive whiteboard is a big computer screen. I do not think Mrs Dunne heard me say this but the other day I was at a learning support unit where a child who had significant communication difficulties was interacting with the whiteboard. He was communicating in a way that he would not have been able to do had he not had that technology in his classroom.

MR SPEAKER: Order! The minister’s time has expired.

MS GALLAGHER: Mr Speaker, I will take my second 10 minutes, even though I said I would not do so. This is a classic example of how fantastic this technology is. People visiting from other places around Australia say, “I wish we could do what you are doing here. Because you have got a small system and you can make a commitment like this and deliver, your children are in a much better position than ours”. All around the country people want to put in place these interactive whiteboards for students. We have promised to buy one for every one a school buys, up to the limit of the initiative, which is just over $1 million.

This is a fantastic resource for schools and they will get two whiteboards instead of the one they can afford. We have some schools where every classroom has an interactive whiteboard. We have other schools that have maybe one and I think there are probably schools which have none. This is about trying to create a standard, setting a level where children have access to this fantastic technology so that they are in a position to compete with their peers in the community. It is a great initiative and it should not be talked down by Mrs Dunne and the Liberal Party.

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