I can't believe the festive season is just around the corner. It seems only yesterday I returned to the education and training fold after this year's machinery of government changes but it was, in fact, last March.
I've enjoyed meeting and becoming reacquainted with thousands of our dedicated staff, teachers and school leaders throughout the state and listening to their valuable ideas on how we can solve our challenges. I've been impressed to hear about all the wonderful programs and strategies that are helping young Queenslanders to reach their full potential.
This year we've accomplished a great deal to improve student performance and service delivery. Results from this year's National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) are very encouraging. The proportion and number of students in Queensland meeting or exceeding the national standards increased in 17 out of 20 areas tested. About nine out of ten students are achieving or bettering the benchmarks, up from last year.
We've restructured central office to align with our seven key priorities. Our regional boundaries realignment will streamline our delivery of education, training and early childhood services throughout the state. From January 4 next year our seven new regions will each be overseen by a regional director who has responsibility for our three service areas. It'll be business as usual for schools but now they will be able to better integrate and coordinate their education and training programs. Our executive directors will still work with schools. These changes will ensure a sharper focus on performance at the local level.
We value the work of our dedicated and professional teachers. I'm pleased teachers' union members have overwhelmingly accepted the State Government's enterprise bargaining package in a recent union ballot. All teachers will have an opportunity to vote on the package next year before the agreement is certified. The deal includes a pay increase of 12.5 per cent over three years with further rewards for quality senior teachers, heads of program and school leaders. There will be better pay levels for beginning teachers and access to some vacation payments for eligible temporary teachers.
Workplace reform is one of our seven key priorities. Our world-class teachers are delivering a quality education to young Queenslanders. One of our strategies to ensure we retain our quality teachers is to improve the transfer process in cooperation with the Queensland Teachers' Union. We're also employing early graduates in shortage areas such as science and maths.
Our last key priority is to equip Queenslanders with the training and skills that are needed now and in the future. Our work is critical to the State Government's objectives of building a strong, diversified economy and a community of well-skilled and knowledgeable people through high-quality education and training programs. More information about these and other key priorities is available on the DET website.
Finally, thank you all for your great efforts this year. I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and happy new year. Enjoy your well-earned break and I look forward to working with you in 2010.