LITERACY AND NUMERACY
Mr CHARLES CASUSCELLI:
My question is directed to the Premier. How is the Government improving literacy and numeracy standards in New South Wales?
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL:
I thank the member for his question. This morning, joined by the Minister for Education and the member for Strathfield, I visited Ashfield to announce funding for 200 additional teachers as part of this Government's commitment to improve literacy and numeracy across all schools in New South Wales. There is nothing more important to learning than improving literacy and numeracy. They are the building blocks for lifelong education upon which the students in the gallery today have embarked. Sadly, too many children fall through the cracks and reach high school without achieving minimum standards in literacy and numeracy. Last year the Government established a ministerial advisory group on literacy and numeracy to assist it in delivering the election commitment it made in this area. The working group gathered evidence from all sectors and stakeholders and its key finding was of concern. The group reported that it is not convinced that all students requiring special attention on literacy and numeracy are identified and are subsequently given the attention and extra teaching that they deserve.
The ministerial working group recommended a plan of action to boost the literacy and numeracy of students across New South Wales so that students who need special attention are identified early and get that attention. Today we have begun the process of implementing the group's recommendations with $24.45 million being provided to employ 200 additional full-time equivalent teachers to target those students most in need of assistance in the earliest years of school. This is the start of the New South Wales Government delivering on its commitment to provide 900 extra teachers, over five years, across our school system. Today's announcement includes $7 million for the Catholic sector and $2.3 million for the independent sector. Teaching practice will change from a focus on the whole class to a focus on the individual needs of students.
Madam Speaker, you as a former teacher know the importance of training teachers to help them make this change. To public schools in the greatest need we will provide funding for the appointment of 50 hands-on instructional leaders, with the first appointments due in May. These instructional leaders will provide hands-on, five days a week professional development and guidance for classroom teachers. They will identify the students who are performing below the national minimum standard in literacy and numeracy, commission the most appropriate intervention, monitor progress and report outcomes. These are the sorts of outcomes that the Minister and the member for Strathfield and I saw at the Exodus Foundation Literacy Centre this morning, when we met someone whom Bill Cruze described as a saint—Mary Storch, one of the centre's instructors.
There we engaged with a student named Alicia who in just seven weeks had lifted her reading skill from that of an eight-year-old to that of an 11-year-old. Alicia achieved this through intensive hard work and effort. She was instructed on a personalised basis. Every second day tests were set to monitor her progress and the books she read were individually selected for her. This Government delivers on its election commitments. One year ago exactly we committed to additional literacy and numeracy teachers for State schools. Today, we are delivering. We are delivering on our election commitments across the board. One year ago we promised an upgrade of Blacktown and Mount Druitt hospitals, and yesterday the Minister for Health and I delivered $300 million for that project.
Mr John Robertson:
One year too late.
Order! The Leader of the Opposition will come to order.
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL:
We have done in one year what Labor could not do in 16 years. One year ago we promised that the north-west rail link would start in our first term. Not only is the project being delivered, but on Monday the Minister announced plans to reserve an additional rail corridor. Labor promised, but never started, the link. We are not only starting it; we are future-proofing the project.
We promised to implement the Wood commission of inquiry recommendations on out-of-home care for vulnerable children, and the Minister for Family and Community Services started delivering on that too. We promised to reform political donations across this State, to clean up the sort of politics endemic under those opposite which corroded trust in government, and last week those reforms became law.
Order! I call the member for Canterbury to order.
Mr BARRY O'FARRELL:
The Government will continue to focus on what is important: delivering the infrastructure to get our State moving again; delivering the quality services in hospitals, schools and other areas; and delivering the resources to help our police keep our community safe. This is constructive activity. Criticism, carping, smears and nothing substantive comes from the Opposition.
Order! There is too much audible conversation in the Chamber.