Page 4202 - Week 13 - Thursday, 19 November 2015

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Today is another opportunity to thank Tony, Sue, Alasdair and the team for their hard work to produce this report. Through its extensive community consultation, the expert panel conducted focus groups involving more than 200 students, received 156 submissions, collected information through 30 student interviews and had more than 1,200 surveys completed. I gratefully acknowledge the Canberra community, the schools, the teachers, community organisations, individuals, and students and their families for participating in this consultation. It allows us to hear their voices.

The expert panel review provides an opportunity for us to pause and consider how we respond to the needs of students with complex needs and challenging behaviours, their families and their support networks, including their schools. The panel recognised that the ACT has a strong school system and achieves outstanding results on many measures. The review rightly draws attention to the commitment, expertise and good practice that are evident in many schools. We can and will build on these strong foundations through acknowledging and accepting opportunities to improve, and taking a positive future focus that continues to place students at the centre.

The panel recognised the positive work of schools, school leaders and teachers and the challenge faced by schools in supporting students with complex and challenging behaviours. The ACT government currently invests approximately $70 million in supporting students and teachers in meeting this challenge. The panel recognised that this is a challenge faced by all schools across all jurisdictions, not just in the ACT. The recommendations outline supports needed for families, schools, teachers and school leaders to ensure that they are well supported in continuing to provide a quality, inclusive education for all students.

Our response to the expert panel’s findings identifies forward-thinking initiatives to better support a broad range of services and activities already being undertaken in schools across the territory. This commitment will strengthen the capability of school systems, schools, teachers and support staff to draw on existing frameworks so that they can respond to students effectively.

The government will act on all of the recommendations made by the panel. We will also invest over $7 million this year to make changes for a better future. For students, we will be funding innovative approaches to support students with complex needs. This will provide an opportunity for primary schools to explore and share initiatives that provide students with appropriate behaviour support within mainstream settings. A new grants program to support the development of safe sensory places in schools will meet the needs of students with complex needs and challenging behaviours. This program will support schools in planning and delivery of contemporary safe spaces. A cross-sectoral roundtable will be held during youth week next year to provide an opportunity for schools to meaningfully engage with students and give students a voice on this issue.

For teachers and staff, there will be targeted professional learning and stronger supervision and support for teachers and staff working with students with complex needs. I have announced scholarships for learning about complex needs and new professional learning opportunities in partnership with universities. There will also be

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