Page 3387 - Week 11 - Tuesday, 20 September 2005

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the maintenance of our education community and no mechanism for the investment in our children’s future.

Public schools are the lifeblood of our system because they provide opportunities for students to receive a quality education regardless of their financial circumstances. We must invest in our public schools so that students who emerge from them have every opportunity to contribute to the continued intellectual and economic growth of our society and to ensure that they have optimum life chances.

This morning, during the debate on the Tree Protection Bill, our would-be opposition leader talked about investment in the growth of our community and the government’s role in stimulating long-term growth. Education is the mechanism to achieve this growth. We must invest in the future prosperity of our society by investing in our children.

I encourage those opposite to speak up about education in their party room because this debate needs to happen. We need some positive ideas coming from the other side, rather than this reactionary rubbish, to effectively engage in a debate about future directions. We need all sides to bring worthwhile proposals and agendas to the table.

In the time I have been in this place, I have rarely seen anything but reaction from the opposition. Where is their policy? Where is their constructive feedback? Where is their firm commitment to improving education outcomes? We may well ask. However, I understand that we cannot sit around and wait for this opposition to engage. We must, as a government, make the commitment to students and to future generations of students. And we have made this commitment. We have committed over $400 million in government school education in the ACT during the 2005-06 budget process, a record amount, because we believe in the future of our children.

I am delighted to say that this investment is producing the intended results for our ACT children. One only needs to look at the performance of ACT schools in the 2003 national benchmark results recently released by the education minister to see the very real success of the Stanhope government’s initiative in the area of education. Mr Stanhope has been referring to some of these results. They demonstrate the high quality of education in the territory. We do well to reflect on these results.

In the area of reading in years 3, 5 and 7, ACT students ranked highest or second highest in Australia. Particularly pleasing was a significant improvement from previous years for year 5 reading, with 96 per cent at or above benchmarks, the highest percentage in Australia. Further, the ACT has maintained the trend of previous years, with at least 95 per cent of ACT year 3 students achieving at or above the benchmark standards for reading and numeracy.

In the area of writing, there was considerable improvement in the 2003 results, with 94 per cent of years 3 and 5 students, and 93 per cent of year 7 students, at or above the benchmark. Across the board, the ACT year 7 benchmark results in 2003 for reading, writing and numeracy were among the highest in Australia. These results extend to the program for international student assessment administered in 2003. Based on 15-year-old students, the ACT ranked first or equal first in mathematics, reading, science and problem solving. I think you must agree this was an outstanding result. How Mrs Dunne

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