Page 781 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 1 April 2008

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That is a real concern. It may be an indication that we had a very difficult child on our hands, but I would be surprised if that child did not have many, many needs and a requirement for support. People who work with these most marginalised children tell me that they are desperately seeking in-school suspensions or some other system that does not send those children back to their dysfunctional homes, to their foster families, who desperately need that respite, and thus out in the streets. Many of them are suspended from school and they hang about anyway.

These kids are at the cutting edge of where we need to work, and this is really a challenge, I can acknowledge that. Are the days gone when such children could sit outside the principal’s office because there were one or two? I do not know, but I want to see the work that indicates the best way of dealing with kids. I acknowledge that we have got a code of conduct to deal with violent incidents, and that there are steps that must be followed, but that is not good enough. (Time expired.)

MS PORTER (Ginninderra) (5.00): I thank Mr Smyth for raising this important issue. There can be no doubt, as others have said before me, that the management of public education is one of the most important areas for any government. As the minister has explained, for a public education system to operate effectively, it needs to be properly resourced. That is why, since coming to office in 2001, the Stanhope government has increased funding for public schools to $390.7 million in 2007-08 compared to funding of just $296.1 million in 2001-02. That represents an increase of over 30 per cent in funding in public education.

These investments are hitting the mark. Not only do our teachers now receive amongst the highest salaries in the country, but our students continue to achieve the best results. The 2008 Productivity Commission report on government services, which provides a comprehensive assessment in comparison of the performance of governments in Australia that we have been discussing, confirms the success of the ACT public education systems in the areas of participation, retention, completion, literacy and numeracy. The minister has addressed the concerns regarding some of these results.

Among other things, the report shows that the ACT government is well above the national average when it comes to expenditure per public school student with our expenditure of $13,165 per student compared with the national average of $11,243. It is a pity that the previous federal Liberal government did not have the same commitment.

This investment has translated into excellent results for our students, who continue to achieve some of the best results across the country and compare favourably with some of the highest performing countries in the world. I note that Mr Seselja, the shadow minister for this particular area, has absented himself from the chamber yet again. Additionally, the ACT government has provided $90 million over four years to upgrade school infrastructure, as Mr Barr mentioned earlier. Almost $80 million of this funding has already been allocated, providing for such improvements as new gymnasiums at Belconnen and Stromlo high schools, a new performing arts centre at Lyneham high school and a range of other school improvements that Mr Barr outlined before.

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