The ACT Liberal Democratic Party believes in a system of universal education from kindergarten to year 12.

However, the ACT education system should receive a fail mark for its under-performance.

Despite benefiting from:

  • citizens that, on average, earn more and have a higher level of education than the rest of the country and spending;
  • the majority of our students coming from metropolitan areas;
  • the highest growth in real expenditure per government student in the last decade;
  • the greatest numbers of teachers per student, apart from the NT; and
  • the highest expenditure per government student of any state or territory except the NT

the ACT’s educational outcomes have been slipping against the Australian average.

Is it any wonder that Canberra’s parents have been voting with their feet, and their wallets? Already, over half of school-aged children in the ACT are educated privately at some point during their schooling years, with roughly half of high school students being in the non-government sector.

Evidence is mounting that independent publicly funded schools can bring great results particularly if they are based on school autonomy. Recent research has found positive impacts on average achievement levels – particularly for disadvantaged students and where schools operate on a ‘no excuses’ model of high expectations of achievement, strong discipline, traditional teaching methods, and longer school days and years.

Empowering parents and principals in the running of schools and providing a policy framework and training and support for independent governance should be a key feature of the ACT’s education system.

In 2009 the WA government introduced an independent public school model, which now covers 70 per cent of public school students in 445 Independent Public Schools across the State.

Such a model allows schools to become self-managing, answering to a board of educators and parents. It removes centralised administrators and provides the school with flexibility to respond to the student base and parental concerns. Clearly, community and parental engagement are a driving force that is increasing attainment levels.

While the precise model would be up to the school board, the Liberal Democrats consider an ACT independent public system would involve:

  • school performance being subject to independent accountability through NAPLAN testing;
  • schools would be free, have open enrolment, and have flexibility and autonomy surrounding staffing and curriculum;
  • funding would be at an equivalent rate to government schools with similar student demographics;
  • supported by full engagement with the Commonwealth Government’s Independent Public Schools initiative.

The ACT Government’s engagement with the Independent Public Schools initiative is lukewarm at best. While it includes professional development and training for school governing bodies, principals and school leadership teams, the ACT needs to go further by providing a clear policy framework that would allow transition to independent public schools.

The ACT Liberal Democrats:

  1. Believe each school-aged child in the ACT deserves the best possible education but that current arrangements are failing too many students and their families.
  2. Believe that the education system can be reformed by enhancing choice and flexibility and promoting school autonomy.
  3. Believe that the ACT should pro-actively engage in the Independent Schools Initiative by providing policy leadership, training and development for principals and school boards on independent school governance.
  4. Will reform the ACT’s participation in the Independent Public Schools initiative to include training on: transition to greater autonomy, enhancing innovation and change leadership skills; strengthening principal leadership in school governance and autonomous school budgeting; and developing school council decision making and accountability.
  5. Will provide a strong foundation for start up schools in new suburbs - such as the Strathnairn and Macnamara in the new West Belconnen/Parkwood development and Denman Prospect in the Molonglo Valley – and, where there is support from the community, enable schools to convert to independent public schools where traditional public school management is failing or where good performance could be made even stronger.