Page 3037 - Week 08 - Thursday, 16 August 2018

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MS LEE (Kurrajong) (10.20): I welcome the opportunity to speak on this important statement. I also welcome its delivery to the Assembly, and I thank the minister for providing in this statement some outline of her current thinking. On reading through it—and you can appreciate, Madam Speaker, it was only a quick but nevertheless concentrated appraisal, given that I set eyes on it for the first time only a few hours ago—it sets out some of the principles that I outlined in my appropriations speech on Tuesday. I hope the minister has had an opportunity to give my speech a more considered view and not just the off-the-top-of-her-head comments she made in her response on Tuesday. Given her comments today, I am optimistic that she has.

The minister talks of four foundations: to place students at the centre of their learning; to empower teachers, school leaders and other professionals to meet the learning needs of all students; to build strong communities for learning; and to strengthen systems to focus on equity with quality.

I notice we continue to have the word “equity” on every other page. I set out on Tuesday why I find this an opaque descriptor or goal, given the specific policies this government has adopted under the guise of equity. And I have to wonder whether the addition of the word “quality” to that last foundation came after the realisation that “equity” does not of itself deliver quality. It is indeed not too dissimilar to what I called for on Tuesday—that is, to seek excellence in education.

I welcome her reiteration of my comments that we should focus on aiming for a minimum of one year’s growth for one year’s learning, irrespective of starting point. It is a point I made very clearly on Tuesday. All students start at different points and all students deserve to have the support and encouragement to achieve to the highest level they can, and our education system should support and encourage them to do it.

The minister’s comments that the ACT government believes every child deserves a great education and “the life chances that flow from it” are obvious principles that, of course, I support. However, I question some of the subsequent comments, including equity being the key to how that can be achieved, but that is a debate for another day.

I note the minister’s statement says that the government will continue to work on the measurement and evaluation of student growth. I am encouraged to think that means perhaps NAPLAN might now get a fairer go. I hope the minister and her directorate talk to teachers who use NAPLAN well and appropriately as a great diagnostic tool to support their students to grow and that the focus of the review of NAPLAN is on how and why the data is being misused.

I am keen to understand more about the transition processes and learning pathways from early childhood through primary, secondary and senior secondary schools to work that the minister refers to. She mentioned the community school model and referenced Doveton College in Victoria. She says she is looking to bring such an approach to the ACT. I await further details on this with interest. Given this government’s frequent disdain for non-government schools, I find this an interesting direction but, of course, the devil is in the detail. I trust the minister will provide more information to me and to Canberra families on how she sees the community school model will apply in the ACT.

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