Page 4092 - Week 13 - Thursday, 31 October 2013

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letters—those he does not manage to lose—than the education minister has taken with this issue. I am reluctant to appear to be defending the current minister for education, but this is an absurd abuse of parliament, and it needs to be exposed as such.

MS BERRY (Ginninderra) (11.36): I thank Mr Rattenbury for bringing on this motion today because it is a very important subject for this Assembly to be debating. Certainly, it is an important subject for parents who live in my part of the town in west Belconnen who I have spoken to about children with learning difficulties and who learn differently from the mainstream. In fact, the numbers show that one in five children have a learning disability, which means that up to five kids in every classroom of 20 could have a learning difficulty and learns differently from the mainstream. I think it is important, and I agree with Mr Rattenbury, that we should leave it to the experts and that politicians should not be making decisions about how our children learn. For children with learning difficulties, particularly with dyslexia, it takes a lot of practice and a lot of patience, a lot of repeating and a lot of time, and that is what the experts tell us.

I acknowledge and thank the members of the task force, and I also acknowledge Macgregor Primary School, which made a number of submissions to the task force. The response to the task force from the directorate has been really positive, and I am looking forward to seeing the outcomes and what progress the task force makes in February next year.

One of the recommendations is a consistent and systemic approach to maximise specific leaning outcomes of students with learning difficulties. The second recommendation is that of building staff capacity to meet the needs of students with learning difficulties. This is a really important one so that teachers in the schools get the support they need so they can assist our children and their families with their education. The third recommendation is improved partnerships with families and better communication with families about the sorts of teaching methods that are being used to assist their children.

I was particularly interested that the task force noted that a provision for adjustment to assessment tools for students with learning difficulties need to be strongly promoted to parents and carers. I would like to see, instead of a NAPLAN test for children with learning disabilities which says that every child who learns differently from everybody else will always fail in NAPLAN, a different assessment tool which says something like, “Ten weeks ago your child was here. Look where they are now.” That is the sort of assessment that parents with children with learning disabilities would like to see so that at least they can see where their children are moving forward and actually getting through.

One of the other things the task force talked about and identified was that with better understanding of learning disabilities like dyslexia, we know those children are very high in their intelligence; it is just that they learn a little bit differently than everybody else. We need to give those children every opportunity, just like every other child, to have the best learning outcomes. I think we can do that, and this task force is definitely a step in the right direction. I look forward to the report from the government about how the task force recommendations are going and how they are being implemented across the ACT.

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