ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

Media release: Education - we can lift attainment by working together

16 February 2017

The ACT Council of Social Service has today welcomed the ACT Government Future of Education Ministerial Statement and the commitment to a discussion paper and reform process by the Minister for Education and Early Childhood Development, Yvette Berry MLA. 

ACTCOSS welcomes statements that addressing inequity in education must be the objective that will guide resource re-allocations under the Gonski agreement as well as investments in early learning through to senior secondary schooling and VET, and implementation of key election commitments related to education.

ACTCOSS Director, Susan Helyar says, “Canberra, one of the best educated populations in Australia and with a growing knowledge economy, has some of the worst education attainment gaps in the nation.

“While on average ACT students perform highly, these averages conceal numbers of highly disadvantaged students. Diversity within suburbs means disadvantage is spread out rather than concentrated in a few areas or schools.

“Socioeconomic status (income) is a stronger predictor of education attainment in Canberra than it is in other places. In simple terms, that means that in Canberra being disadvantaged has a bigger impact on your education outcomes than it does in other places. 

“It’s shameful, but also unnecessary. We can fix this. But we need to work together.

“We know that what happens outside school is just as important as what happens in the classroom and the playground for improving education attainment. 

“For this reason we especially welcome the Minister’s commitment to sit down with a broad spectrum of community leaders from different fields. Community services will need to be important partners in any plan to lift attainment by ensuring that young people have supports in their lives inside and outside of the classroom to help them reach their potential. Initiatives are often based on the premise that services will partner with schools and teachers to provide additional support and programs, but this is rarely resourced. That work needs to be core business,” Ms Helyar said.

As the work moves forward, ACTCOSS will be contributing our recommendations for investment in family, youth and broader community services that can underpin, complement and extend the value of programs and support provided in early childhood services, schools and VET. In our joint 2016 Election Statement on Education, ACTCOSS and the Youth Coalition of the ACT asked for matched investment in community services to better partner with schools and expand their role in supporting educational attainment of disadvantaged students.   

These priorities were reinforced by 19 peak community organisations who asked for better support for students who have disengaged or are at risk of disengaging from education as part of a Community Shared Statement on the work we needed to harness in unison to achieve a fair, prosperous and sustainable Canberra.

We will be looking for direct, authentic engagement with students, who are experts on what works well or not in improving their education experiences and outcomes.

We will also want to see advice from people at home and community services working with families sought and acted on. This lived experience, combined with a deep understanding of local data and quality research, will set the right course for the future of education in our city.

For more information or comment please contact
Susan Helyar, Director, on 0448 791 987 or 02 6202 7200.


Related reading:

Election Statement on Education

Community Shared Statement