Loss of languages at Belconnen High and End of Year

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

As we approach the end of 2020, I wish to take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude to the residents in my electorate of Ginninderra who in October asked me to return to this place to make sure that their voices are heard. I value every vote that was cast next to my name and once again pledge my service to the good people of Belconnen. I likewise thank all those who supported my election campaign in any way.

I also wish to thank my staff. Their hard work and dedication helped to carry me for the past four years, and I am pleased to have Sylvia, Joe and Brett back with me for the next four years.

Like many others, I am looking forward to the arrival of a new year with hope for new and better things. There are resolutions to be made, goals to be set, and achievements to pursue. My hope is that our hard work in the present will carry forward to the new year and give us a solid foundation for future growth.

Sadly, this won’t be happening for many Year 6 students at Hawker School. Hawker has a strong reputation in a number of curriculum areas, and this includes its French program, taught to students from kindergarten to Year 6 by a specialist teacher. Previously, students who wished to build on this strong foundation by continuing to learn French at high school could do so because the school to which they are assigned by the ACT Government offered instruction in both French and Indonesian. These language options also served students from Weetangera Primary School, who likewise study French, and Florey Primary School, where students learn Indonesian, creating a seamless educational pathway.

But no more, Madam Speaker. Both French and Indonesian have been dropped from the curriculum at Belconnen High School, essentially throwing up a roadblock to language learning for students from all three primary schools in the priority enrolment area.

This decision has caught families by surprise and disappointed many young learners. It also violates the ACT Government’s Curriculum Requirements in ACT Public Schools Policy, which mandates that all high schools in the territory must provide students in Years 7 and 8 at least 150 minutes of instruction each week in one or more of eight priority languages: French, German, Italian, Spanish, Indonesian, Japanese, Mandarin and/or Korean.

Madam Speaker, I wish to pause here to make it very clear that families are not opposed to the new curriculum that has replaced the teaching of French and Indonesian at Belconnen High. To the contrary, they speak highly of it. But they cannot understand why the introduction of new and welcomed teaching must mean the end of important other parts of the school’s offerings – ones that are actually mandated by government policy.

I take this opportunity, Madam Speaker, to raise the concerns of these families and call upon Minister Berry to fix this problem before the new school year begins. I would hope that she would care about this matter not just because she is the Minister for Education but also because she is meant to represent the Ginninderra Electorate too.

Thank you. And my very best wishes to all for a happy and safe holiday period!

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