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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 01 Hansard (Wednesday, 13 February 2008) . . Page.. 161 ..

to absorb possible cuts in federal government expenditure—much as we hope that no such cuts occur.

Schools—sustainability initiatives

DR FOSKEY: My question is to the Minister for Education and Training and is in regard to the sustainable schools program. Given that the government’s Weathering the Change strategy intends to ensure that our schools are carbon neutral by 2017, are staff members who are involved in implementing the sustainable schools program given leave to attend training for the program and leave, such as a line off or equivalent, to implement it in their schools?

MR BARR: I thank Dr Foskey for the question. Across the education system, schools have their own school-based management funds which provide the opportunity for individual schools to purchase additional staffing points or relief staffing allocations in order to enable staff to go off-line to undertake particular projects. From time to time as well, the education department will fund a broad initiative. I refer to what we have been debating earlier today in relation to languages, whereby the government will make additional funds available that will provide for professional development opportunities for existing staff, and backfilling of positions at the individual school level, to ensure that there are teachers teaching classes whilst other staff are off receiving additional professional development support.

I have received a piece of correspondence from a teacher in a particular school who has expressed some concern that, although she has a very strong desire to implement a range of these initiatives within the school, she is having some difficulty getting the time away from face-to-face teaching that she believes she needs. I am happy to look at those issues and discuss them with the department to see if it is possible to provide some departmental resources. We do, as part of a whole department, whole-of-government initiative, seek to support individual schools to achieve these outcomes.

It is important to note, with all of these issues, that we have a system of school-based management. Schools are given the resources up front. They have a global budget, and they then make decisions around priorities at an individual school level. It may well be that there are some schools that are not embracing some of the sustainability initiatives as much as we would like. Certainly, it is the government’s position that we are strongly encouraging schools to be involved in these programs. I think that, given the very strong level of take-up in the ACT of both the ACT and commonwealth initiatives, ACT schools by and large lead the nation in terms of taking up these programs and having both staff and student engagement. So I think I know where this question has come from, Dr Foskey.

Dr Foskey: No; actually you’re wrong.

MR BARR: I may well be wrong, but I am happy to look at what the government can do. Of course, we have provided a massive injection of funds into the school system to improve environmental efficiency and to make our schools more sustainable, both through the Weathering the Change initiative that the Chief Minister announced and through the $350 million worth of capital upgrades that this government has invested in public education. None of this would be possible unless this government had invested so significantly in improving the infrastructure of our schools.

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