Page 4093 - Week 13 - Thursday, 31 October 2013

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MS BURCH (Brindabella—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Disability, Children and Young People, Minister for the Arts, Minister for Women, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Racing and Gaming) (11.40): Thank you, Mr Rattenbury, for bringing on this motion. Clearly this government understands the vital importance of meeting the needs of each and every student and is committed to making a positive difference in the lives of all the students in the ACT. The vision that all young people in the ACT learn, thrive and are equipped with the skills to lead fulfilling and responsible lives is one that schools work towards from the moment a child begins their education. In fact, the lifelong learning skills that schools instil in all young people continue to influence and to form a crucial part in the lives of young people forever. Education, as we know, is the key to bright futures and the tool we never stop using.

For students with learning difficulties, the route may not be as straightforward, but we strive to ensure the outcome is the same. Students with learning difficulties must also learn, thrive and be equipped with the skills to lead fulfilling lives. For this reason, the government established a task force on students with learning difficulties, which has provided the opportunity to consider the way forward to improve the learning outcomes of students with learning difficulties. We have also committed to the national plan for school improvement, and it is through those key directions that the recommendations from the learning difficulties task force will be delivered.

For an individual to experience the best possible education that meets their needs, they must experience quality teaching and learning. The leadership in their school must be empowered to make a difference so students’ individual needs are met, and parents need to be aware of the range of crucial ingredients that make their child’s education successful. If their child has learning difficulties, they need to know that, as for any other student in the system, schools will be working to ensure their child thrives.

While the ACT’s numeracy and literacy strategy is certainly a part of this picture, you will appreciate that it is actually only one part of a wider agenda. Task force members were drawn from people who demonstrated connection and commitment to children and young people, represented key stakeholder interests and had relevant experience associated with children and young people with learning difficulties.

As well as meeting as a group, the task force invited presentations from within the directorate and other relevant government and community agencies, held consultations with directorate staff, parents and carers and students and conducted a professional literature search on evidence-based practices for students with learning difficulties both in Australia and internationally.

The final report of the task force was submitted to the government in June this year, and the report identified 14 strategies under the three key recommendations: a consistent systemic approach, building staff capacity, and building partnerships with families. The recommendations support a systemic approach to supporting students with learning difficulties that present in any classroom from preschool to year 12, and builds on the already high standard of professional practice in our public schools.

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