Page 1899 - Week 06 - Tuesday, 5 May 2009

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suits their needs, abilities and their plans for the future. While we recognise that not all children are studious and their talents can lie in other areas, this initiative will help foster their potential and ensure that, if they do not go to year 12 or to university, they do not get left behind.

As the minister for education, Mr Barr, announced last month, this is an initiative that has been strongly supported by the Canberra community. Pathways to the future—a consultation paper on increasing young people’s engagement in education, training and work was publicly released in August 2008. It provided an opportunity for broad community consultation. We were pleased to see the Youth Advisory Council, young people, their parents, carers, teachers and the wider community provide input into this decision-making process. The report and surveys undertaken by the Youth Advisory Council show strong support for making it compulsory for students to be at school, in training or at work, until 17.

The ACT government recognises that staying at school through to year 12 and university is not the best choice for all students. That is why we will be reforming the Education Act and providing a range of alternative educational pathways and transitions for students.

This government’s learn or earn policy is in line with the COAG’s youth compact and is just one of the ways in which we have as governments across Australia agreed to work together to support younger people during uncertain economic times and to provide them with the opportunity to develop their skills for future employment prospects when the economic conditions begin to improve to ensure that they are ready to take advantage of the opportunities that will be presented.

Education—school leaving age

MS HUNTER: My question is to the Minister for Education and Training and concerns the issue of raising the school leaving age and the concept of earn or learn. Can the minister advise what additional resources will be provided or new programs developed in schools, the CIT system or the community for the 16 or 17-year-olds who will now continue in education or training.

MR BARR: I thank Ms Hunter for the question. A number of these programs will be contained—we will hear about them in the very near future in relation to this year’s budget, but there are a number of programs that were funded in previous budgets that I draw Ms Hunter’s attention to, most particularly the expansion of the funding and the size and capacity of the CIT’s vocational college and its capacity, through the access 10 and access 12 programs, to provide alternative settings outside the traditional mainstream schooling structure to enable students to get those year 10 and year 12 qualifications—particularly useful for students who find the mainstream schooling environment challenging.

It is, of course, pleasing to note, in the context of this national discussion, that the sorts of goals that the commonwealth government is setting for the rest of Australia are around achieving a year 12 retention rate of about 90 per cent. I understand that COAG has sought to bring that forward to 2015. It is very pleasing from an ACT perspective that we are already at that national goal.

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