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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 01 Hansard (Thursday, 14 February 2008) . . Page.. 271 ..

MR BARR: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Can I say from the outset that maintaining and improving high education standards across ACT schools is a very important priority for the ACT government. Ms Porter—and I thank her for the question—would be aware that earlier this month I released a discussion paper for an ACT School Standards Authority. This paper establishes a framework for a community debate about how we can establish and monitor standards in our education system.

The discussion paper sets out a number of proposals about how the functions of the Board of Senior Secondary Studies could be expanded to oversight education standards from preschool to year 12. The paper also explores how the government could best provide objective evidence of student achievement. It also examines how we might support and strengthen standards in the teaching profession, the curriculum and schooling generally. The ACT already has one independent statutory authority, the ACT Board of Senior Secondary Studies. The BSSS currently accredits year 11 and 12 courses and ensures that school based assessments for year 12 qualifications are valid and fair.

The proposed authority would be an evolution of the BSSS, expanding on the excellent work that this body has done and integrating a range of quality assurance and standards processes. The authority would potentially be responsible for registering teachers, maintaining and reviewing curriculum frameworks from preschool to year 12 and registering non-government schools and students for home education. The authority would also be responsible for managing year 10 and year 12 qualification processes and managing the program of national student assessments.

The authority would provide advice on education outcomes on a whole of jurisdiction basis. It would have the advantage of consolidating into one body a number of important functions, including the registration of non-government schools, which can give rise to a perceived conflict of interest when undertaken by a government department.

Establishing such an authority at this time would coincide with changes that have arisen due to new national developments in areas such as national curriculum, teacher standards and national assessment. Developments nationally around teaching standards and the national assessment program mean that now is the right time to discuss whether or not the introduction of an authority with responsibility across public and non-government schools is of value. The authority would make it easier to align ACT schools with important national initiatives, including the 2003 national framework for professional standards of teaching and the national assessment program which will, for the first time, provide a standard measure for assessing student achievements across the country. These initiatives cross both public and non-government sectors. Oversight of these areas would potentially be most effective if undertaken by a body that is independent of any one sector.

With the discussion paper I aim to build on the consultation that has already occurred in relation to teacher registration and to open up discussion about the possibility of an ACT School Standards Authority. I am interested to learn the views of the community on the merits of establishing this authority. I ask parents, carers, principals, teachers and members of the wider community to read the discussion paper and provide their thoughts on the value of establishing such a body in the ACT.

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