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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 12 Hansard (Thursday, 15 October 2009) . . Page.. 4625 ..

providing excellent services to children and their families and these schools are already valued members of their local communities. Community groups are making regular use of the space available at each of the sites and the fact that these new centres are connecting so strongly with their local communities makes them able to deliver even higher quality education programs to their students.

The centres are all offering innovative education programs. At Southern Cross, students learn about literacy, numeracy and appropriate social interaction at the school’s cafe and I understand it is one of the best cafes in Scullin. Madam Deputy Speaker, you are more than welcome to drop in to the Bright Star Cafe. The schools are also catering for kids with special needs and recently I had the opportunity to visit the Isabella Plains early childhood school to see how staff are working with children with special needs. We look forward to the completion of the century garden for kids with special needs, at the Southern Cross site. At Narrabundah, workers who were at the site during its renovation were invited into the classroom to show the students how to mix cement and to talk with students about their jobs; a very innovative way of engaging the students in the transformation of those education sites.

It is terrific to see these new educational programs and settings being delivered in partnership with a number of ACT government agencies and also non-government providers. On this side of the chamber we do know the importance of developing and delivering policies that advance the education of students in those early years.

In the time remaining for me in this debate I would like to talk a little bit about transparency and accountability in education. I have said before that these are the hallmarks of good government and they should also be the hallmarks of a good education system. That is why the education ministers council agreed to parents, teachers and communities getting nationally consistent information about schools, about results, about workforce, about financial resources and about student population.

Ministers are getting on with this important job. Firstly, we agreed on a framework for publication of comparable information about school performance and context, and this is a vital, collaborative reform. Secondly, we have made sure that from this year the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, ACARA, will be responsible for publishing relevant and nationally comparable information on all schools. This will include the 2008 and 2009 NAPLAN data and, crucially, the associated contextual information.

We have discussed in this place the complexity of defining like schools. The recent ministerial council meeting has agreed on definitions and structures for the reporting of like schools and, whilst it was a complex exercise, it was not used as an excuse for inaction or for delay. Ministers also agreed to the release of the paper, a report prepared by the Australian Council for Education Research entitled Reporting and comparing school performances. One thing that is worth noting is that the proposal to publish the best performing school in each cohort of like schools as a benchmark is an innovative and exciting proposal. I think it is a great way to have a race to the top, a virtual cycle of evidence and excellence.

I think it is also important to note that the application of this transparency agenda applies equally to government and non-government schools and provides a further demonstration that the old public versus private debate in education is over.

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