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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 06 Hansard (Friday, 27 June 2008) . . Page.. 2350 ..

We will have this debate, I am sure, as we approach the election, about what this government’s plans are for education but the community will rightly look very sceptically at any promises, particularly now we hear promises about what will or will not be done with school sites. We have heard already from the minister that they were not going to sell the school sites, and then we were told that they would, they might or they would consider it. Clearly, some of those sites will be sold. But it is about being honest. It is about actually being consistent.

If you have a plan to do something, be upfront about it; make the case; make the argument to the community as to why it is a good thing. Do not make the case after the election; do not make the case during a consultation process where school communities are fighting for their lives, where one school community is pitted against another after you have announced that 40 of them are on the chopping block. Do not make it then; make the case prior to the election. This government and all parties have a responsibility to be up-front about what they plan to do and what they do not plan to do. And when they make fundamental promises in the area of education, they should be kept. This government has not done that and they deserve to be condemned for it.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (12.05 am): During the valuable estimates process, I asked the minister for education a question on notice. I wanted to know whether he had “advice from the department on an appropriate strategy, to address perceived weaknesses in the ACT government school system”. He replied:

I am not aware of a perceived weakness in the ACT public school system. ACT students continue to achieve excellent results and are performing consistently better than students in other jurisdictions and OECD students.

This response is deeply concerning. I am confident that everyone in the Assembly is well aware that the socioeconomic profile of Canberra people and the average level of academic attainment are right up there at the top in Australia. It has been well established across the developed world, and in Australia in particular, that students with well-educated parents, especially if they are in well-off families, tend to do much better at school. There are a whole number or reasons why this is the case, but an interest in and a commitment to education is a key ingredient. A child can come from a family where the parents do not have high education levels or a high socioeconomic status but, if they are interested, themselves, in their own education and their children’s education, then those children will do better.

When the UAI process in the ACT was being debated a year or two ago, I put that point to the minister for education. Clearly he did not want to appear to be criticising the existing UAI formula. So when I asked him whether he would acknowledge the key indicator for students’ educational achievements is their socioeconomic status and the educational attainment of their families, he said no.

It is difficult to have a constructive discussion about the future of school education in the ACT when the minister and the government are so defensive. And they need not be, because overall we agree that most kids do very well in Canberra schools, partly because of the class and education demographics of our city. But it is also a fact,

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