Page 2977 - Week 08 - Wednesday, 6 August 2008

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something Mr Pratt used to be very strong on until he was told he was not allowed to talk about it. But the fact is that it is an important issue. It is an issue of distress for teachers in their working environment. Some have told me that they felt threatened. Some are concerned that they do not get adequate backup. I think it behoves the government to have a stronger position on that to ensure they can work in a sensible environment.

So while there is a sort of gratuitous slapping of themselves on the back in this motion which I will disregard, I will go with the substantive points and I am happy to support the motion. But I do note that Liberal policy in education is far from complete. It covers one aspect of public education—probably enough to warrant a few TV ads—but it does seem to ignore a lot of the issues facing our public schools.

MRS BURKE (Molonglo) (4.50): I will be speaking to our motion but certainly will not be addressing the very petulant amendments to that motion, as if Mr Barr could not for once in his life talk through a single motion or, in fact, those opposite talk through any motion without changing it substantially. But it does change the spirit of what we are trying to present today. However, my colleagues have clearly outlined, in no uncertain terms, the way in which the Stanhope government really have taken the big axe to education in the ACT. We have outlined in that motion, and through our policy announcements, what a Seselja government will do.

I want to focus on maybe one of those aspects which, I think, is the root cause of a lot of problems as we progress through school life for students, for parents and for teachers, and that is the smaller class size issue. It is one that is widely debated around the world. There are many research projects done on this and they have been mentioned in this place today.

But the decision by the Canberra Liberals to implement a policy over the term of the next Assembly of having no more than 21 students in ACT government primary school classes will go a long way to restoring the faith, I believe, of the ACT community in our public schools. The Liberals are keen to address the root causes of the decline in educational standards and the drift from public education. I think this is an innovative move to, at least, start to do something. Nobody can accuse us of not having a go. I think that this motion today outlines some of the really excellent initiatives that we have so far put on the table.

As I have said, much world research, in fact, has been done and it supports such an argument and our position on small class sizes. The research on class sizes defines student outcomes solely in terms of subject learning. However, we all know that education is more than cognitive progress; it also is about personal social development.

I looked at an article on the ABC News website which shows that research on class size is wrong. The President of the State School Teachers Union, Anne Gisborne, disagreeing with research from the ANU which shows class sizes do not impact on learning—of course, she is taking on board large class sizes, and I think that is one thing we would not be in favour of—said:

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