Page 5607 - Week 13 - Thursday, 17 November 2011

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MR DOSZPOT: The experience with Weston preschool parents typifies how this government delivers education policy in Canberra. The usual modus operandi applied: decision announced, public disquiet, lack of consultation realised, then a change of direction. It did not plan, it did not communicate, it did not listen. And because of that, the government had to do yet another back-track or Barrflip, as I have come to call them. But perhaps even worse is that, while it is a reversal of policy, there is a reluctance to recognise it as that. The decision is only deferred for the next 12 months, so the angst and debate will have to be had all over again next year.

It was the same as the debate about the need for a full-time nurse at Woden—months of delay, months of denial, to finally agreement for a full-time nurse, but again, only until the end of the year. The situation for students with special medical needs will be no different next year and neither will be the campaign to have a full-time nurse.

The government has announced its desire to bring more public preschools on stream, and with Canberra continuing to grow, we need a strong education sector. We need to deliver choice, and Canberra families deserve quality education for their children. Whether it is a public education for the entire school life of a student or a mixture of public and independent, whether it is a single-sex school or co-educational, whether it is a school that offers boarding, one that offers strong religious values education, languages-focused curriculum or one more suited to sports and the arts, the choice and quality should be available for all Canberra families.

But it must be underpinned by clear direction and planning, true consultation, true partnerships with parents, respect for teachers. Education policy is too important to only get it right some of the time.

MS HUNTER (Ginninderra—Parliamentary Leader, ACT Greens) (6.03): The Greens will be supporting the bill this afternoon. As the minister said in his speech, the amendments are very minor in nature. Indeed, the amendments effectively just change the definitions within the Education Act such that preschools are incorporated within the definition of “schools”.

But the impact of those changes is significant for two reasons. Firstly, it reflects a move to include preschools in the broader school program, with all the benefits that being attached to a primary school bring for the preschool, both in terms of facilities and in terms of the community continuity that comes with being in the same location.

The second part of the amendment is that it reflects the education and care services national law and the national quality framework that we passed last sitting. The Greens, of course, supported that initiative and very much believe that we should be providing the best quality care and early learning opportunities that we possibly can.

The Greens are happy to support the changes which, whilst they are minor, do facilitate a significant change for the better.

MR BARR (Molonglo—Deputy Chief Minister, Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development, Minister for Education and Training and Minister for Tourism, Sport

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