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Literacy and Numeracy

Tuesday, August 09, 2011
This week I offered my support to a motion brought to Parliament on the National Agreement on Literacy and Numeracy. In every educational facility across New South Wales there are students who are missing out on a great education and some who are falling through the gaps. From a young age some students will experience challenges and hardships that will negatively impact their ability to learn. These difficulties will affect their literacy and numeracy, their ultimate learning outcomes and their overall performance in the classroom. Sometimes these learning difficulties are compounded by various socioeconomic and geographical factors that are beyond a student's control. The National Partnership Program is a significant investment in New South Wales education. Through the three national partnership agreements, the Commonwealth has committed more than $870 million in additional funding to New South Wales schools. More than 740 government, Catholic and independent schools are benefiting from this funding. The National Partnership Agreement on Literacy and Numeracy aims to deliver sustained improvements in literacy and numeracy outcomes, particularly for those students who are falling behind. The COAG Reform Council report found that New South Wales had exceeded 11 of its 12 improvement targets and achieved 89 per cent of its twelfth target. I am pleased to bring a regional perspective to this issue, having spent the majority of my working life in isolated and remote communities throughout New South Wales. The Government recognises that certain factors, such as living in remote communities, can impact negatively on a student's performance. We believe every student deserves to reach their full potential, no matter who they are, what their background is or where they live. We will be increasing the State's investment in improving the literacy and numeracy outcomes of all New South Wales students so that every student in this State will experience an equally fulfilling education. This is regardless of whether English is their first language, or whether they live in the city or in regional New South Wales. To do that we will use strong, evidence-based data to identify the students who are falling behind. We will continue to support the successful initiatives and the targeted programs that are currently in place and have achieved outstanding results for students. We will sustain these improved outcomes through the use of the School Measurement Assessment and Reporting Toolkit, known as SMART. We will better use the National Assessment Program—Literacy and Numeracy performance data for individual students, classes or whole schools and provide all students with the best support we can. Our national tests show that in year 3 reading one in seven students in remote areas and almost every second student in very remote areas is below the national minimum standard. This is compared with at least one in 20 students in the city. National Assessment Program—Literacy and Numeracy results for 2009 in reading and numeracy show that on average 46.9 per cent of students in remote areas and 40 per cent of students in very remote areas fall below the national reading and numeracy standards. There have been some gains, as recognised in the Council of Australian Governments report. However, we believe there is still much more to be done.
Nearly 50 per cent of the National Partnership Agreement on Literacy and Numeracy schools are located in regional, rural and remote areas. This represents around 18,000 school students, including 2,653 Aboriginal students in these areas and around 219 in remote areas who will continue to receive our support. There is evidence that targeted approaches can make a difference and I have seen that evidence firsthand. I do not come from an educational background, but I have learnt in recent years from my association with the Indigenous Police Recruitment Our Way project that everybody learns differently. This can be an inhibitor to achieving desired literacy and numeracy outcomes. Different learning styles need to be identified early, and this is another reason why the targeted approach is important. We strongly believe in supporting significant improvements in growth results. The percentage of Aboriginal students below the minimum standard is heading in the right direction by decreasing from 25.1 per cent to 20.3 per cent. This has exceeded the State's target under the National Partnership Agreement on Literacy and Numeracy by 3.5 percentage points. We are leading the country but there is more to do. We also firmly believe in improving the learning outcomes of students of low socioeconomic status, students with English as a second language and refugee students through this targeted intervention. I am enormously pleased to be part of this Government that will continue to commit to this approach while recognising that much more needs to be done.

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