Page 4514 - Week 14 - Wednesday, 23 November 2005

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It is important to correct the record and for Assembly members to understand exactly how much this government has invested in education since coming to office in 2001. The ACT government contributes over $408 million annually to government schools. In the last budget alone, we provided an increase of 9.4 per cent, or just over $27 million, to government schooling. When you take into account the capital increases of around $3 million, the ACT government funding increase was over 10 per cent, or $30.6 million, in last year’s budget. Since the government first came to office in 2001, ACT government funding to education has increased by $94.1 million, or around 27 per cent.

Some of that money has been allocated through our initiative on preschool hours. We have increased preschool hours from 10½ hours a week to 12 hours a week, acknowledging the essential importance of those early years of schooling. We have also provided almost $1 million in operational funding to assist parents with preschool costs, which is certainly the first time that that money has been provided.

In the last budget we provided over $4 million to assist the needs of students in the ACT with a disability. This was on top of $4 million in the previous budget, addressing those needs we have seen for students with special needs in our government schools. We have extended the class-size reduction program to year 3, with an investment of over $12.3 million.

In indigenous education we have rolled out programs for indigenous student support, at $1.6 million. In indigenous education support, we have extended Koori preschool to five sites. We have seen big increases in the number of Koori preschoolers attending those programs. We have increased the number of indigenous home school liaison officers from two to 11 and have introduced and enhanced an indigenous support program.

We have allocated an additional $8.3 million over four years to improve the state of repair of school infrastructure. This is in addition to the $11 million spent on capital upgrades in government schools every year. We have introduced a career education support service, at around $1.8 million, to provide essential career education advice to students in those critical years of schooling.

In the 2004-05 budget we allocated $11 million over four years to improve IT and communications services to students in our schools. This covered programs such as technical support. For the first time in the territory we had our schools serviced by IT professionals working within schools to ensure that the computers, the programs and the IT labs were running at the standard that they should be. No longer are we relying on the goodwill of teachers to provide that IT support. We have a school IT infrastructure fund where schools can apply to purchase upgrades, including hardware, software, communications and related facilities. I have seen some of those projects once they have been finished. They are excellent—$3.6 million.

We have a range of other initiatives, including upgrades of school websites. We have introduced an initiative on whiteboard technology, all to ensure that our government schools remain at the forefront of meeting the IT technology challenge and making sure that our students do not fall behind those in other schools, not only in Australia but across the world.

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