Results from the 2009 National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) paint an encouraging picture for Queensland schools.
The proportion and number of Queensland students meeting or exceeding the national standards increased in 17 out of 20 areas tested.
This translates to about nine out of ten Queensland students achieving or bettering the benchmarks, up on last year.
Our students also lifted their mean score performance in 18 of the 20 result areas, which compares favourably with the national performance.
These results validate our renewed efforts to improve Queensland students' literacy and numeracy. However there is much work still to be done before we achieve our ambitious target to be among the nation's best in three years.
We also need to focus on children right across the achievement scale to help lift their performance in the essential areas of literacy and numeracy.
Student and school performance is one of the seven key priorities for our department and several initiatives have been announced recently to make further improvements in this area.
Set hours for teaching English and mathematics will be in place from the start of school next year.
Students in Years 1 to 3 will be required to spend seven hours a week studying English, moving to six hours a week for those in Years 4 to 7. All state primary school students will spend five hours each week learning mathematics.
Next year will also see the commencement of Teaching and Learning Audits of all state schools to identify strengths and gaps in school systems and processes, as well as the introduction of 'turnaround teams' to boost teaching and learning in schools located in disadvantaged communities.
Building the education revolution
Another one of our key priorities is Building the Education Revolution (BER), which our department is delivering to Queensland state schools on behalf of the Federal Government.
Queensland state schools have been allocated funding of around $2.1 billion dollars for approximately 4900 capital works projects under the BER program.
To ensure Queensland schools are getting value for money, the department commissioned an independent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
The report (PDF) was recently tabled in State Parliament and I am delighted to say that its findings were overwhelmingly positive - testament to the hard work of all those involved in delivering BER across the state.
Stamping out bullying
Recent media reports, including the death of a Year 9 student at a school in northern New South Wales, have highlighted the need for vigilance when it comes to school safety, including bullying and violence.
It is imperative that students and parents know bullying or violent behaviour is unacceptable in our schools.
I expect school staff to take all allegations of bullying seriously and investigate them as a matter of high priority. I also expect principals to reinforce these messages with their staff, students and school community.
The department recently engaged Dr Ken Rigby from the University of South Australia to advise on strategies to reduce bullying in our schools.I trust you will avail yourself of the planned professional development opportunities that will occur during his engagement.