Page 2936 - Week 08 - Wednesday, 6 August 2008

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Mrs Dunne: You are not even listening. The money runs out—

MR SPEAKER: I warn you, Mrs Dunne.

MR GENTLEMAN: While a policy of further class size reductions in years 4 to 6 might benefit some students, it cannot be viewed as the sole or even the leading solution to improving student outcomes. It has to be part of a package that addresses the quality of teaching, the quality of curriculum, the provision of quality teaching environments, access to ICT and much more—in other words, exactly the approach undertaken and being carried out by the ACT government.

For every piece of research supporting one supposed benefit of smaller class sizes there is at least one more countering this argument. For the opposition to say definitively that smaller class sizes produce greater student outcomes places them at odds with a legion of respected academics. And I know whom I would prefer to trust.

Yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition said the ACT government had not consulted academic research in formulating its education policies but, from his unequivocal statement that smaller class sizes increase student outcomes, it seems clear to me who is guilty of failing to check the research. It seems that the Leader of the Opposition was selectively quoting the research in order to retrofit that to his policy statement.

The ACT government is interested in addressing all the established factors that go into improving the outcomes for our students, students who already regularly achieve the best results nationally and who rank among the best in the world. And that is what we are providing in the ACT, through a range of measures, including reducing class sizes in K to 5, but not just limited to a narrow vision that smaller class sizes are somehow the silver bullet that will lead to improved learning outcomes for all students who study in classes with the magical number of 21 students.

We are putting money into teacher professional development. We have outlined a proposal for increased pay to keep top teachers in the classrooms. We are rolling out new quality teaching programs. We are building new schools across the ACT. We are putting broadband and computers into more classrooms than ever before. We are making our schools more environmentally friendly. We are addressing gaps in the achievements between students.

Mr Seselja this morning commented on the government’s focus. We only have to look at the facts, and those facts are in this amendment that the minister has moved: increased funding for education of more than 40 per cent since being elected in 2001; development of new policy areas in national testing; early childhood education; ICT; safe schools framework; countering bullying, harassment and violence; restorative justice programs and countering racism; investment in green schools initiative to enable students to continue to learn about the effects of climate change and how to tackle the problem, including $20 million over 10 years to assist both government and non-government schools to become carbon neutral by 2017.

The opposition appears to be hanging its entire education policy on a reduction in primary school class sizes. While there is certainly evidence that doing so in the early

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