Page 143 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 15 February 2006

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We would like to exempt all students from the requirements of the commonwealth but, at the moment, it is just kindergarten students. The data will be provided in a summary report issued to parents twice yearly, which schools will use in addition to their current reporting. Parents can remove their children from the requirement to report “a” to “e” grades by request in writing. We will keep an eye on how this student reporting goes for students with special needs. How “a” to “e” reporting will work for them has still to be examined.

At the same time, we have been looking at ways to continue to improve the image of government schooling. Last year I wrote to all school boards about the issues of school uniforms, specifically about whether or not we should make school uniforms mandatory in ACT government schools. At the moment, school uniforms are not compulsory in all schools, although some schools adopt policies which encourage students to wear school uniforms. I have been written to by a number of parents on the issue of school uniforms, the image of schools, the cost of keeping pace with current fashions and the stress that puts on many families and the peer pressure put on many children to compete with the latest fashions.

The fact that we may move to make school uniforms compulsory in ACT government schools is something the government is considering. This would be a big change, particularly for high school students. There are very strong arguments why this would be a good move. It is something that I have written to school boards about. I will hear back from them and consider it before making a final decision on the issue of school uniforms.

MS MacDONALD: I have a supplementary question. I thank the minister for that answer. Minister, what processes, if any, are there for consultation with school communities on these changes?

MS GALLAGHER: In relation to school reporting, there was quite extensive consultation with school communities in term 4 of last year. A package of materials, including the new policy, has been developed for schools and will be issued during the week commencing 20 February. Schools will then have to develop their own reporting policy, which incorporates the department’s policy, in consultation with their school communities, and copies of the school policies need to be provided to parents by the end of June 2006.

We did win several concessions in relation to the agenda of the federal government. I think that it was ridiculous to ask teachers to rank and grade kindergarten students. It was a really backward step in education policy, and we are really pleased to have been able to ensure that we can protect ACT students as much as possible from what we see as a very regressive educational agenda.

In relation to the school uniforms issue, I have asked that school boards respond to my letter by the end of term 1. That will give us time to consider the feedback before making a final decision and before implementation at the beginning of the school year next year. I think that the image of schools is a very important issue. Many schools which do have strong uniform policies report that student morale goes up and that many instances of bullying are addressed because students are no longer competing with the latest fashions.

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