Page 5695 - Week 15 - Thursday, 10 December 2009

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The index shows that in the ACT, with 5.7 per cent of children considered to be developmentally vulnerable in the language and cognitive skills area, we are the best in the nation. This compares with an 8.9 per cent level of vulnerability nationally.

Probably most importantly, the index shows areas where the Canberra community and the government can seek to do more for kids. According to the index, the ACT has 9.4 per cent of five-year-old children considered to be developmentally vulnerable in the areas of physical health and wellbeing, and that is slightly above the national average of 9.3 per cent. So this tells us that Canberra’s five-year-olds are not so well prepared for the primary school years in physical health and wellbeing.

Yet this contrasts with the general view, backed by other statistical information that the ACT is the most active and healthy community in Australia. As the only minister for education and minister for sport in Australia, I have sought to revitalise physical activity in ACT schools, as part of our new curriculum framework most particularly, but also through a direct participation program, the minister’s physical activity challenge. I think it is a testament to the role that our quality PE programs play in helping us move from having five-year-olds with comparatively low readiness in physical health and wellbeing to being the most active and healthy community in Australia.

I would like to congratulate the federal government for this significant investment in the AEDI. It shows where our kids are school ready but it also shows where governments at the state, territory and federal levels need to do more working in partnership with parents. It will be a valuable tool for all governments to identify areas needing further investment and further policy work.

Certainly, on behalf of the territory government, we look forward to a detailed analysis of the results over coming months. As more data is made available in 2010 comparing that with our performance in primary schools, our PIPS data, it will provide a rich information source to guide future public policy development in the ACT. That will be a positive thing for young people.

MR SPEAKER: Mr Hargreaves, a supplementary?

MR HARGREAVES: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. Minister, what policies is the government pursuing to ensure that all Canberra children are ready for school?

MR BARR: The government has made and will continue to make the necessary reforms to ensure that ACT kids are ready for school; that is despite the ongoing opposition and politicking from others in this place. These reforms have included the amalgamation of preschools into government primary schools—a successful policy, I might add, that those opposite still cannot bring themselves to admit is right for ACT kids. There is a mountain of research that tells us that investment in the early years of a child’s education is the most important area to invest in. That is why this government has opened four new early childhood schools in the ACT, catering for kids from birth to eight years of age, and providing support services for families. These include access to health professionals, family support services, childcare and a diverse range of school programs. These new early childhood schools complement the

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