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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 03 Hansard (Thursday, 10 March 2016) . . Page.. 965 ..

developmentally on track in three of the five domains. It also says the percentage of children developmentally at risk or vulnerable has increased. Minister, why are the ACT's kindergarten students falling behind?

MR RATTENBURY: While that data is obviously of concern to me, the ACT government and the education directorate, what Mr Doszpot highlights in the facts and figures he has cited in his question is that there are a range of measures. Some students are doing quite well. Some students will be doing above average, but some students are struggling or falling behind. The job that we have to do is to make sure we understand why that is the case and that we put appropriate responses in place so those trends are reversed.

MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Mr Doszpot.

MR DOSZPOT: Minister, why are 846 ACT kindergarten students developmentally at risk and 564 developmentally vulnerable in the area of physical wellbeing and health?

MR RATTENBURY: I imagine there is a range of reasons for that but, obviously, those numbers and those individual cases are concerning. I suspect they reflect a broader societal trend that we are seeing of less healthy lifestyles right throughout our community. The fact that it is happening to children at such a young age is of most concern because, obviously, in the formative years that is when lifelong habits are set. That needs to be addressed.

MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Ms Lawder.

MS LAWDER: Minister, why are there over 1,100 children developmentally vulnerable on one or more domains and 531 students vulnerable on two or more domains?

MR RATTENBURY: As I indicated in my previous answer, there would be a range of reasons for that. Some will reflect socioeconomic background where individual children have come out of disadvantaged circumstances therefore they start behind. Others will be experiencing learning difficulties. The important response from government is to put in place programs to address that.

What has become clear—to, I think, everybody in recent years, and it is well accepted now—is that early intervention is an extremely important part of ensuring that children do not slip behind. That is why the government has taken steps to put in place things such as increased opportunities for early childhood learning, where efforts are being made to improve teacher quality in early childhood learning. Recently I indicated that I have sought the education directorate to undertake an internal review of data that was recently released through the ROGS process as to why the qualification levels for early childhood teachers in the ACT were deemed to be low. Part of that data was from 2013, when the new education quality framework first came into place, and the ACT did start off behind other jurisdictions.

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