PRIMARY SCHOOL READING MATERIAL
The Hon. BERYL EVANS: Will the Minister for School Education and Youth Affairs inform the House of any initiatives which will provide extra reading materials to small primary schools in New South Wales?
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK: I thank the Hon. Beryl Evans for her important question. As the honourable member comes from a relatively small community she always shows a particular interest in the needs of small schools and small rural schools. I, like the Hon. Beryl Evans, am well aware of the problems that small primary schools have had in the past in receiving a fair share of the reading resource allocation. I am pleased to inform the honourable member and the House that, from the first term next year, the Department of School Education will be implementing a special reading materials support initiative for primary schools which will make significant allowances for small schools. This funding is on top of the statewide textbook allowance, so it is a separate allocation. The reading materials initiative will add $600,000 to the funding currently available to primary schools for purchases such as magazines and textbooks, but this funding is to be weighted to give a fair share to small schools. While every primary school will be funded at the rate of $1 per student, small primary schools will receive a base grant of $100. In this way schools with perhaps 40 or 50 students - many of our small country schools have smaller enrolments - will receive a larger lump sum than their per capita allowance.
The Hon. R. J. Webster: Hear, hear!
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK: The Minister for Planning and Minister for Energy says "Hear, hear". I believe the Minister has children at a very, very small school.
The Hon. R. J. Webster: It has 11 students.
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK: Those 11 students will receive the $100, which is a significant allocation. The initiative recognises that small primary schools are often in country areas without easy access to large libraries and other resources. That matter has been impressed upon me and my colleague the Hon. R. T. M. Bull as we have moved round many schools in the rural community. The initiative also recognises that students in small schools should have access to as broad a range of reading material as their counterparts in large schools. The Government, by breaking away from a reliance on the per capita system of funding, is offering more equitable service to schools with enrolments of fewer than 160 children. Mr President, you would know that reading is a top priority for this Government. It is a top priority in our primary schools. So the $600,000 reading materials support initiative will complement a vast range of other initiatives to encourage students to read. Many of those programs are now in place. Perhaps the most notable is our reading recovery program. The new program is one of
many government initiatives aimed at developing basic skills among students in all New South Wales schools.