Page 3163 - Week 08 - Wednesday, 22 August 2012

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hospitals and why it is so disgraceful that you are pinning your entire election chance on trying to beat up on the public hospital system, offering no ideas, no vision for the future, but just prepared to take down the hardworking people in the public health system, and they are sick of it.

Education—learning difficulties

MS HUNTER: My question is to the minister for education and relates to the dyslexia and learning difficulties task force. Minister, I was pleased to see in recent media that you have committed to establishing a task force made up of a group of parents and academic experts to develop a work plan for addressing dyslexia in ACT public schools. Can you outline briefly what the terms of reference and goals for this task force will be, and who will make up the membership?

DR BOURKE: I thank Ms Hunter for her interest in this matter and her praise for our initiative in establishing a task force which will look at learning difficulties, including dyslexia.

The purpose of this task force will be to look at what is the current state of evidence-based research on learning difficulties, including dyslexia. I want Canberra parents to know what works and what does not work. I want them to know what we are doing in our schools at the moment to help children with these issues and also what can be done in the future to improve what we are already doing. This is fundamentally about improving our teacher quality and providing more information for teachers so that they can use that evidence-based practice in their work as teachers.

I am also concerned, of course, that there is a range of solutions which are promoted in the community to tackle dyslexia which may not have any evidence base whatsoever. I am particularly concerned that parents may be spending thousands of dollars on treatments that simply do not work. What I am going to do is have this task force, which will be announced shortly, and I hope to have them report to me by the end of the year so that we can then move forward on this area.

MR SPEAKER: A supplementary, Ms Hunter.

MS HUNTER: Minister, will you invite members of the dyslexia support group for the Canberra region, who have recently put together a petition of over 600 signatures, to be part of that task force, and could you give a rundown of the terms of reference?

DR BOURKE: I thank the member for her question. At the moment I am taking advice from the directorate on both the exact terms of reference and the membership of the task force.

MR SPEAKER: Ms Le Couteur, a supplementary.

MS LE COUTEUR: Minister, do you agree with the position in the discussion paper which was prepared by the support group for the Canberra region that there is a lack of consistency in ACT schools with respect to learning difficulties?

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