Page 2864 - Week 08 - Wednesday, 24 June 2009

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There were a few things that came out in the discussion this morning. One of the issues was around public versus private schools, that this is an issue that goes beyond that. This is an issue around parents wanting information about the quality of the schooling that their children are receiving and to get some sort of common reporting and assessment scheme right across the education spectrum regardless of whether it is a public or a private school.

My motion went to the heart of the fact that, although there had been the sign-up from all state and territory education ministers to the declaration around reporting and assessment and there were a series of undertakings around safeguarding school communities from harm and stereotyping from somebody who might decide to pull together information off the new central website, the national website, these are important. It is important that each state and territory has committed to ensuring that privacy will be protected, that there would not be harm. But it is being a little naive to just leave it up to those commitments. Quite frankly, pulling together those simplistic leagues tables and publishing them is outside the control of governments at this point in time.

We have seen it happen. A decade ago a Sydney high school was well and truly targeted on the front page of a newspaper. The final year of that school were targeted and did suffer harm from that incident. And just recently we have had something in Queensland and Tasmania. I mentioned the Hobart Mercury example, but it has happened in Queensland as well: a newspaper has gone to the online information that has been put up there and has pulled it together into leagues tables, which again are very simplistic ways of trying to paint a school as being substandard compared to another school.

And, as we know, the new national website that ACARA is looking after will have information about socioeconomic backgrounds. It will have information about the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and children from other ethnic backgrounds—a greater and richer context around those schools. That is a good thing; that is a sound thing; that is the sort of information parents need. I believe that parents do not just want to know NAPLAN results; they want to get a greater sense of what that school does offer—what sort of pastoral care, what sort of connections it has with community and so on. These are all really important things—parental involvement and so on.

Unfortunately, at this point in time a lot of that good information can be bypassed by a third party who can pull it into a simplistic leagues table and publish it in a newspaper, to the detriment of the school. It has not happened here in the ACT. I would hope that we have a responsible media here in the ACT—a responsible daily newspaper that would not go down this path. But I guess we are leaving the door open slightly by not having some sort of legislative protection. As I said, I am glad to see that state and territory ministers are committed to looking at safeguards, but I want to leave that door open—that, if it does occur, we might look at something stronger than what is currently being proposed or seems to be proposed.

On the whole, I think that all sides here in the chamber would agree that it is a good news story here in the ACT. We have an excellent education system that is delivered

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