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DG's View

8 September 2010

Salute to a comprehensive consultation

The consultation period on A Flying Start for Queensland Children has now ended, and I'm proud to look back on a truly comprehensive statewide program to garner public feedback.

What remains is the work of sorting through and analysing the huge amount of information received.

It was only fitting with a green paper proposing such major ideas for the future of education in Queensland that everyone be given every possible opportunity to have their say.

From the Premier's first-ever online People's Question Time, through 93 public meetings in centres from Coombabah to Yarrabah, to invitations to submit online and on paper, the people of Queensland have been consulted.

More than 2600 people turned up at forums from the first in Townsville on February 18 to the last in Gumdale on June 24, and more than 1400 submissions were received by the Government by the deadline of June 30.

I myself attended some half a dozen of these public meetings, and Minister Wilson was at seven. Our hard-working - some would say heroic - Assistant Director-General Patrea Walton traversed the state to attend the vast majority, more than 80 in total, making sure the Department of Education and Training was represented and accessible to all throughout the process.

We were impressed equally by the genuineness of people's concerns and their openness to consider change in the context of improving educational opportunities for our children. As the Minister recently noted, people clearly valued the chance to have their say.

All the submissions and feedback are now being evaluated but early indications are that changes proposed in A Flying Start are being met favourably.

Easily the most talked about was the plan to move Year 7 to high school by 2014. Initial feedback suggests educators generally support this change, given that the 2014 cohort of Year 7s will be students from Queensland's first Prep intake and therefore somewhat older in their education than the Year 7s of previous years.

Reservations expressed about this move often surrounded the provision of adequate resources to effect the change, and this is something the department will obviously be focusing on if those initial indications of support are borne out and the proposal proceeds.

Of course educators were not the only voices heard in the consultation process, and it was encouraging to receive suggestions from community members on ways to help families prepare their children for school, and students' own views on their schooling and how it is delivered.

Part of the impetus to investigate the move of Year 7 into secondary school came from early steps being taken towards a national curriculum. In other states and territories Year 7 is already completed in high school, and this move would bring Queensland into line.

State, independent and Catholic schools in Queensland have now agreed to begin phasing in the national curriculum from 2012.

This reinforces the reasoning behind seeking public opinion on the Year 7 move. It does not, however, make it a foregone conclusion.

The Flying Start we set out to achieve will not fly without careful consideration of the opinions we actively urged all Queenslanders to contribute.