Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 08 Hansard (Wednesday, 6 August 2008) . . Page.. 2971 ..
What we have seen with Jon Stanhope under his tutelage in ACT education is that education is going into receivership. It will soon be the case—there is nothing that Andrew Barr has done in his two years or more in the job that will address the issue—that ACT government high schools will be a minority system. By his own admission, they will be the schools that the disabled, the poor and the intractably badly behaved will attend. That is a huge loss for our community. Mr Barr spends a lot of time talking about the education outcomes of people in the ACT and how they are better on average than they are in the rest of the country. To a large extent, they should be, simply because of the economic and social and educational background of parents. One of the biggest determinants of performance in education is the socioeconomic background of your parents and the socioeconomic background of the school which you attend.
It is very interesting that Mr Barr’s own research—the research that he put together in an attempt to try and debunk the harsh criticism from the Save Our Schools representative, Trevor Cobbold—actually shows that the ACT performance in examinations and tests like PISA is in decline. The findings of Mr Barr’s own research on the performance of students in the Australian Capital Territory on PISA says on page 2 that the results show that the best performance in reading and literacy in the ACT is not as high in 2006 as it was in 2002. It goes on to say that these findings are pretty much the same across the country. Although it is a national decline, in the capital city where you have the best and the brightest and the most educated community, you should not be seeing that decline. It goes to show that the investment that the Stanhope government has made has been without thought. In 2000, when Mr Stefaniak was the education minister, the children who did PISA exams did much better than they did in 2006, when this minister was the Minister for Education. That is what we see.
Under Jon Stanhope, Simon Corbell, Katy Gallagher and Andrew Barr we have seen a decline in educational standards, a decline in educational achievement and a gutting of the community. What we have today is this pathetic set of amendments, which, of course, is what you come to expect from the Stanhope government, because they cannot address the issues on the table.
MR PRATT (Brindabella) (4.30): The Canberra Liberals have not only made a commitment to reduce class sizes, but also, as part of a comprehensive range of associated policy initiatives, we intend to address teacher numbers by appointing 150 primary school teachers and an additional 20 teaching assistants, pay the HECS debt of exceptional graduate teachers and—a favourite initiative of mine—sponsor mid-career professionals in maths, science and information technology to do teacher training. In an ageing society, what a wonderful initiative this is by this visionary opposition—looking at the best ways to exploit the resources available in our community. This is, indeed, a centrepiece and Mr Seselja is to be congratulated on that. Thank God there is vision somewhere in this chamber because there is nothing on the other side.
The benefits of having 35 more high school teachers, and the downside of Mr Stanhope culling these 35 teacher positions in the first place, present a very