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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 19 September 2018) . . Page.. 3829 ..

ACT Teacher Quality Institute, the government will grow and share knowledge about best practice and teaching approaches.

You see, Madam Speaker, I have absolute faith in teachers across all our schools and in their absolute commitment to and unwavering focus on our children and their education equity and excellence. And I do not just say that and then go on to bag them out. So, rather than supporting another inquiry and giving the opposition another opportunity to talk down our schools, their students and their teachers, the government intends to get on with the job. I commend my amendment to Ms Lee’s motion to the Assembly.

MRS KIKKERT (Ginninderra) (4.58): I thank Ms Lee for bringing this very important motion before the Assembly today. This issue is a deeply personal one for me. I rise today as a mother of five children who are all enrolled in the territory’s public schools. I have nothing but respect for the hardworking and dedicated educators who have over the years sought to teach and inspire my children.

Nevertheless, when I speak with other parents in my electorate, education is one of the areas of concern most frequently raised with me. Like my husband and me, these families appreciate the qualified teachers and others who work in our schools. They often feel fiercely loyal to these schools, volunteering for fetes, turning up for fundraising events and so forth. Underneath all of this, however, is a growing sense of unease regarding what they observe of their children’s academic progress. I do not know if these parents are familiar with the data referenced in this motion, but they have certainly detected that something is not quite right in our education system.

These reports into academic underperformance are clearly damning. Any attempt to claim otherwise is misleading spin. Professor Lamb’s report clearly found that “ACT government schools on average achieve negative results on every measure” and are therefore not performing up to their potential. The Auditor-General’s report likewise found “systemic” shortcomings in our schools, leading to relative underperformance, despite this government’s spending on schools being amongst the highest in the nation.

The recent ANU Law School working paper from Professor Macintosh and Ms Wilkinson pulls all of these data together and extends them across all sectors of the system. The conclusion is that “ACT school students are several months, sometimes several years, behind their peers in writing and numeracy”. This underperformance is greatest at the high school level and in numeracy and writing, a disturbing reality that many parents in my electorate have already detected in their own children.

This should not be the case in a place like Canberra. We are a small jurisdiction, concentrated in a single city. Our adult population has relatively high levels of education and income. This government’s revenue is at a record level. Viewed from this perspective, there is no rational reason why we cannot be an educational utopia. But we are not, and we need to know why; then we need to fix the problem or problems. Professor McIntosh’s recommendation is clear: we need an inquiry to get to the bottom of this.

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