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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 02 Hansard (Thursday, 6 March 2008) . . Page.. 646 ..

families when his policies have forced them out of home ownership, have seen their schools close, have seen their services cut back and have seen their taxes and charges increase. This is the story. This is the impact that this government’s policies have had on the young families of the ACT.

MR BARR (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Planning, Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Minister for Industrial Relations) (4.36): I thank the opposition for raising this matter. I am very pleased to be able to indicate that I do not think there is anything more important that a government can do for young families than to ensure that their children have access to world-class public education. That is why the Stanhope government have increased expenditure in education by more than 30 per cent since being elected in 2001. That is why we are investing $350 million in critical infrastructure that this community needs. That is $350 million, I might add, that the opposition continue to believe is throwing good money after bad.

We continue to produce forward-thinking policies in areas of early childhood education, information and communication technology in schools, standards in education, healthy fund raising and canteen policies, revitalising physical education and school sport, initiatives in Indigenous education and pastoral care in the arts and languages. We are backing those policies with investment. We will invest $20 million to ensure that our public education system has state-of-the-art information and communication technology, over $14 million to provide a pastoral care and student welfare coordinator at an executive level in every ACT public high school, $3.3 million to improve outcomes for Indigenous students in our education system, and more than $1.2 million to revitalise physical education in our schools.

It is an investment that has come off the back of a difficult reform process, but we are investing in the quality of our education system. What young families in Canberra need is access to quality public education. What they do not need is inferior education. They need quality education, and that is what we need to invest in in our education system. There is no doubt that this government is committed to providing families with education choices. This commitment is exemplified in our policies on early childhood education.

International and national research highlights the importance of early childhood education. The early years are critical in setting the foundation for future learning, behaviour and health throughout the school years and on into adult life. Studies have demonstrated time and again the positive effects of good early childhood education. This includes higher school completion rates, further education participation, better employment outcomes, better earnings and better general social wellbeing. One US study showed that each dollar invested in early childhood education can save up to $7 in later public expenditure. Research on the value of early childhood programs, particularly for children who are disadvantaged, is undisputed and well substantiated. The Stanhope government is responding to this research and focusing on and promoting early childhood education through a range of sound policies.

This year all preschools have been amalgamated with a primary school in order to streamline education pathways for children. These amalgamations will improve the

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