Page 4616 - Week 12 - Thursday, 15 October 2009

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Since 2001, Labor has put more than 200 teachers into our schools. Labor has lowered K-3 class sizes to 21 in these important early years of learning. We have now committed to go further. We will invest another $23 million over the next four years to employ up to 70 additional teachers across all years of schooling, from kindergarten to year 12. Through this significant investment, we will be able to lower average class sizes in each and every year of schooling from the beginning of the 2010 school year—lower class sizes, down to an average of 21 across primary schools and high schools and an average of 19 across our colleges. Quality infrastructure and learning environments are very important factors also. That is why we are investing almost half a billion dollars in capital infrastructure in our schools.

But the most influential factor in student achievement is the quality of the classroom teacher. Students taught by expert teachers demonstrate greater depth of understanding than other students. We understand the evidence and we will act on it. Children and young people will see that the best classroom teachers are in their classrooms. Parents will see that their children and their young people have the best teachers getting the pay and promotion they deserve. Teachers will do the work they do best—that is, teaching our children.

We are making sure that our teachers spend their day educating students and not dealing with unnecessary administrative tasks. Skilled workers will see the rewards on offer for great teachers. As a consequence, these skilled workers will come into the teaching profession. This Labor government will pay the best classroom teachers up to $100,000. Teachers who excel must have the opportunity to advance. The best and brightest graduates must not be turned away or held back. Under this government’s agenda to improve teacher quality, quality teaching will be rewarded. We will advance education for all students in the ACT.

Climate change is the great challenge of our generation and future generations. We have just heard from the minister about that. Our investments in sustainable schools serve two purposes. First, we reduce our impact on our environment. Second, we teach our students that meeting the challenge of climate change is urgent; it cannot be put off.

This government are acting to meet this challenge. Heading the list of our new initiatives is a $2 million plan to put a rainwater tank in every public school. This will mean rainwater for toilets and playing fields. It will also mean rainwater for gardens, agriculture and animal husbandry. It will mean water security for schools. We have also provided $2 million over four years for the installation of solar power generation systems in public schools.

Students from preschool to year 10 are now learning about environmental sustainability and the scientific basis for climate change, water security and biodiversity through the ACT’s new curriculum framework. I have seen that there is a strong appetite among students to learn about climate change. This appetite is matched by their genuine desire to help fix the problem. I am sure this goes from the school into the home as they spread the message to their parents and to their community.

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