Page 5606 - Week 13 - Thursday, 17 November 2011

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impaired, the failure to support disabled sports programs in schools, the failure to deliver needed services in our special schools, the endless buck-passing between Health, Community Services and education, the failure to negotiate well and effectively with teachers over pay and conditions, over administrative matters, over everything and anything basically.

Who would have thought that you would have read in a union magazine words like “disgust at the failure of government to address salary injustice” when describing a Labor government? There has been a failure to communicate with parents over any number of issues, the most recent example being the Weston preschool. I regret that on so many issues the performance of those on the government benches has been found wanting. After 10 years in power, the government have stopped listening, and one wonders whether they ever listened.

They did not listen when communities begged for their local schools to not be closed. They did not listen when parents and teachers pleaded for support to address bullying. They did not listen when NAPLAN results showed that Canberra students were lagging behind interstate schools. And they paid no attention when Canberra families, having lost faith in the government, took their children out of the public school system in large numbers.

For years, Canberra families have heard that the ACT has the best education system in the country. The Minister for Education and Training’s mantra that the ACT continues to lead the nation in education and training is not totally supported by the evidence. We have an array of challenges, so many of them caused by government inactivity or inattentiveness. The shortage of appropriately qualified teachers in science and maths, the shortage of librarians in schools, issues of bullying, vandalism and violent attacks on school grounds have all combined to create a level of distrust and confusion for parents in the public education system. The February 2011 ACT schools census brought that distrust into stark reality when for the first time enrolments in Canberra public high schools dropped below enrolments in non-government schools. All this is a consequence of Labor’s agenda of so-called progressiveness.

The latest progressive initiative, changes to preschool classes at Weston, combines all that ails in this government. To refresh the Assembly, enrolments for the Weston campus of Arawang preschool opened in May this year. Like most parents, the parents of children in the Weston area considered their choices. For many in the Weston area, they chose to enrol in Weston preschool.

In August of this year, parents received a letter from the Arawang primary school to advise that the school principal and board had decided to change the mix and, instead of two mainstream preschool classes at Weston preschool, the early intervention unit was to move from Waramanga to Weston and one preschool class was to move from Weston to Waramanga. For half the 2012 enrolment, this meant their campus had changed, and until that letter in August this was the first time that parents had heard of the changes. And the government wonder why they get so many people offside.

At 6 pm, in accordance with standing order 34, the debate was interrupted. The motion for the adjournment of the Assembly having been put and negatived, the debate was resumed.

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