Page 3349 - Week 09 - Wednesday, 20 August 2008

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professional staff and expert consultancy support to help schools to implement the quality teaching model. All teachers will be provided with resources to support their professional learning; schools will be supported to work together in clusters; and school leaders will be offered a program of professional learning to assist them in implementing the quality teaching model in their schools. Thirty-three teachers have already been provided with scholarships to study for a graduate certificate in educational studies, focusing on quality teaching.

We know that having up-to-date resources and quality learning environments are important, but these need to be combined with good teachers and a meaningful curriculum. Ensuring the best future for our children is about ensuring that we have quality teaching in our schools.

International and national research also highlights the importance of investment in early childhood education. The early years are critical in setting the foundation for future learning behaviour and health throughout the school years and on into adult life. Studies have demonstrated time and again the positive effects of quality early childhood education. This includes higher school completion rates, further education participation, better employment outcomes, better earnings and better general social wellbeing. One US study showed that each dollar invested in early childhood education can save us up to $7 in later public expenditure.

Research on the value of early childhood programs, particularly for children who are disadvantaged, is undisputed and well substantiated. The Stanhope government is responding to this research and strengthening our provision of early childhood education through a range of policies. This government is investing over $15 million in establishing four new early childhood schools at Southern Cross, Lyons, Isabella Plains and Narrabundah. These new schools will join the very successful and popular O’Connor cooperative school, which already offers a dedicated focus on early childhood education. These four new P-2 schools will ensure that we can offer this focus across all areas of Canberra, not just in the inner north.

The focus in the early childhood schools will be on quality learning, student wellbeing and family participation in a purpose-built environment. Services will vary from site to site and will be available from a number of government and community agencies, including education, childcare, health, parenting, early intervention and preschool programs. Additional funding of $1.895 million over four years has also been provided in the budget for an officer in each school to coordinate the delivery of integrated child and family support services and to ensure a successful start to the schools as well as funded childcare places for children from disadvantaged families.

Early childhood is just the beginning of our government’s investment in our students’ education. It is a matter of great pride that school students in the ACT achieve the highest levels of academic performance as measured against national and international reading, writing and numeracy benchmarks. The ACT government is committed to maintaining our high national and international educational ranking.

Recent data from assessment programs across Australia point to the need to focus attention on the literacy and numeracy needs of all students. The government is providing nearly $1 million over four years to build capacity within the teaching

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