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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 03 Hansard (Wednesday, 2 April 2008) . . Page.. 830 ..

new support for physical education in schools; keeping children safe in cyber space; and the establishment of a school standards authority.

We note also that a recent report of the Australian Council of Education Research found that, regardless of their socioeconomic background, ACT students are performing better academically than their peers in the rest of Australia. Despite the constant harping and criticism from those opposite, this government will continue to promote public education. “Public education, so much more to offer”, our campaign to continue to support and promote public education in the ACT, will get the message out that what is offered in our public system is world class. I do not think anyone is disputing that world-class public education is available in the ACT. We need to continue to put quality first to continue to raise the standards in public education.

I note that since he has become opposition spokesperson on education, short of reheating my safe schools task force, a task force that had been meeting monthly in conjunction with ACT Policing—

Members interjecting—

MR BARR: The Leader of the Opposition is 12 months behind the game. He has paid no attention to the questions his colleagues were asking. He has even missed that.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (11.20): First of all, I want to thank Mr Seselja for bringing this matter up yet again. It has not gone to rest yet, and in an election year I imagine that the government’s own focus groups have indicated that this is an issue that still resonates around our communities. I also want to thank the minister for giving us more detail than I believe he has ever before given on this matter. That might reflect the fact that, again, the focus groups have identified that this is going to be a significant issue at this election.

It does concern me that the government thinks that some more glossy pamphlets are going to solve the problem. People need more than to be told that public education is good; they need it demonstrated. I refer to the speech I gave yesterday which detailed, with statistics, a number of cases where schools have turned around educational outcomes for their most disadvantaged pupils. This is what people need. They do not need another glossy pamphlet. We are a much more sophisticated electorate than that.

The Towards 2020 program was driven by a review that appeared to be based entirely on financial targets. We should remember that the ACT department of education had begun a more thoughtful program of renewal which incorporated a plan for real community engagement. Called “Education 2010”, it was a plan that articulated some of the challenges facing the ACT government system and the likely responses of participants and stakeholders.

Unfortunately, the goodwill and collaborative process that such an approach could engender have been forfeited through the introduction of the hastily devised Towards 2020 program. The results have included the destruction of a number of communities through the abrupt shutting down or the slow suffocation of their schools; the arbitrary and highly contestable way in which the costs and performance of the various schools

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