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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 11 Hansard (Thursday, 17 Sept 2009) . . Page.. 4184 ..

MR BARR: I thank Ms Porter for the question and welcome her back to the chamber. On Saturday I did have the great pleasure of officially opening three of our new early childhood schools, at Southern Cross in Scullin, at Narrabundah and at Isabella Plains. These are the cornerstones of our investment in early childhood education. Each community held an open day to mark their official opening and each open day attracted many hundreds of Canberrans who were keen to see the centres, which are at the forefront of early childhood education in Australia and indeed in the world.

These schools are regional hubs, providing integrated services for children from birth to eight years of age and of course they provide quality education—great education, Mr Speaker—for the earliest years. They are, in short, inviting and friendly one-stop shops providing excellent services to ACT kids and their families.

It is very pleasing to see the strong growth in enrolments in each of these schools. Southern Cross has a current enrolment of 155, Narrabundah 106 and Isabella Plains currently 86. The word is obviously spreading in Tuggeranong, because Isabella Plains is expecting its number of enrolments next year to be 145 and it is growing every day.

These schools are valued members of their communities. At Isabella Plains, parents and community groups are making regular use of the community space available; it is the same at Narrabundah and Southern Cross. The centres are all offering innovative education programs. At Southern Cross, students learn about literacy and numeracy and appropriate social interaction at what is, I am reliably informed, the busiest school café in the ACT, the Bright Star Cafe at Southern Cross.

The schools also cater for kids with special needs. At a recent visit to Isabella Plains, I had the pleasure of seeing how staff are working so effectively with children with special needs and we look forward to the completion of the sensory garden for kids with special needs at Southern Cross. At Narrabundah, workers who were on the site during its renovation were invited into the classroom to show kids how to mix cement and to talk to the students about their jobs. These are just some of the examples of how staff at our early childhood schools are finding new and interesting ways for their students to learn.

The five early childhood schools in the ACT will also be involved in a 20-day artists in residency program. This will see five professional artists work with students in enhancing creative learning through the arts—more innovation and another great example of education innovation in those early childhood years.

These schools are based on the fact that the early years are the most important in any child’s education. This makes them an extremely valuable tool in helping Indigenous students to reach their full potential. The Narrabundah early childhood school includes a Koori preschool program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged from three to five.

The childcare element of each of these new schools is also very important. The childcare is provided by the Creche and Kindergarten Association, C&K, who have

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