Department of Education and Training Budget
The Hon. JAN BURNSWOODS: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Education and Training. Will the Minister tell the House what the Government is doing to improve educational outcomes in our schools?
The Hon. CARMEL TEBBUTT: I am happy to provide information for the House about what the Government is doing to improve outcomes in our schools. The budget for the financial year 2005-06 contains record spending in our schools. The total Education and Training budget has increased this year to $10.1 billion, which is a $440 million or 4.5 per cent increase on the 2004-05 financial year. This record spending underlines our commitments to class size reduction, literacy and numeracy, improving educational outcomes for Aboriginal students and building school infrastructure, to name just a few of our commitments. I am pleased to inform the House that the Government is on track to meet its class size reduction program, with reductions across kindergarten, year 1 and year 2. We are looking towards a statewide average of 20 students in kindergarten classes, 22 students in year 1 classes and 24 students in year 2 classes by 2007. Last week I released a report showing significant improvements for teachers, principals, parents and students as a result of the first roll-out of our class size reduction program in kindergarten classes.
The funding in this year's budget will ensure that we meet that target with the money to be spent on employing more teachers and building more classrooms. This is a very important program for our young students. We all know the benefits of reduced class sizes on the schooling of our students, whether they be more attention for individual students, better classroom management, greater teacher morale or better teacher-student relationships. We are focusing also on giving children the best possible start to their education through our literacy and numeracy spending, which is another key area of this year's State budget. We have a strong focus on getting the best outcomes in the early years with programs such as Reading Recovery and Count Me in Too, which provides essential support in numeracy. The comprehensive review of Aboriginal education released last year confirmed that many indigenous students lag behind in key areas of learning. As I have outlined previously, this is a key priority for the Government. The Government is providing additional funding—$53 million over four years—to improve educational outcomes for Aboriginal students following that comprehensive review.
The funding, which will go towards targeted schools with a high proportion of Aboriginal students, will help fund individualised learning plans, teacher incentive packages, curriculum revision and extended student assessment and testing. We are committed to closing the gap for Aboriginal students. We will announce the locations of those targeted schools over the coming months. The budget provides a continued focus on enhancing teacher professional development. We have established the New South Wales Institute of Teachers and we are linking professional development to teaching standards. We are also strengthening support for students with special learning needs, with more than 660 new teachers aides to be employed over three years. Building school infrastructure is another one of our key commitments. The budget includes two new schools: one at Seconds Pond Creek in Kellyville and another in St Marys in Sydney's west. We are delivering essential infrastructure in the fastest-growing parts of the State in areas where the community demands it.
The Government is also providing support for students with behaviour problems. Construction will start on two new behaviour schools in Lakemba in Sydney's west and Wagga Wagga this financial year. In the 2005-06 financial year we will undertake 18 major new capital works programs across the State, including the upgrade of school facilities at Bulahdelah, Concord west, Mullumbimby, Strathfield and Ulladulla, to name a few. The Government is committed to achieving excellence in education and to giving students the best possible start in their schooling. It is about supporting quality teaching and our most disadvantaged students, and it is about building school infrastructure. [Time expired.]