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Tuesday, 3 June 2003
Page: 15836


Mr BAIRD (9:05 PM) —I rise tonight to congratulate a school in my electorate, Gymea Technical High, which is working to overcome an issue that has become evident in education over the past few years. Boys are lagging behind girls in operational literacy right across the school curriculum from early primary to secondary school. For example, in the year 2000, 89.6 per cent of girls in year 5 achieved the literacy benchmark, as compared with 85.2 per cent of boys. I find it unacceptable that 14-year-old boys are doing worse in literacy tests now than they were 25 years ago.

This problem is highlighted in later years, where the retention rate for year 12 is almost 11 per cent lower for boys as opposed to girls. The year 12 retention rate for boys has dropped to below 70 per cent, which is of concern. In addition to this, most subjects in years 10 and 12 have seen girls achieving higher average marks. This discrepancy tends to widen significantly in the last two years of schooling. In New South Wales the tertiary entrance score has been up to 19 per cent higher for girls. These statistics are of concern to all.

The challenge is to develop strategies that address issues that are hindering boys and raise their averages without undermining the previous developments in girls' education. The Minister for Education, Science and Training has launched an initiative that will enable schools to create workable programs that will act as examples for other schools to achieve successful practices in boys' education. This program is called the Boys' Education Lighthouse Schools Program.

I am pleased that Gymea Technology High in the electorate of Cook has been given a grant for stage 1 of the Lighthouse program. The school has embraced this concept and will use the funds to evaluate an existing cross-age mentoring program. This will ensure that older students can guide younger students, enabling them to maximise their potential. In addition to this, the school will establish new literacy and conflict management initiatives for male students. The literacy program will increase the percentage of male students that will meet the benchmark standards in literacy tests as they progress through high school.

This is the first stage of the Lighthouse program, with stage 2 commencing in early 2004. Stage 2 will see approximately 30 clusters of schools established across Australia to support good practices in boys' education. Each cluster will contain a Lighthouse school to act as a demonstrator of successful practices and to support professional development of teachers in schools around them. This is an excellent initiative that will enhance boys' education without detracting from the gains that have been made in girls' education over the past 20 years. I congratulate Gymea Technology High on their selection for stage 1 and I am confident the results of their initiatives will be an important enhancement of boys' education.

The initiatives that have been brought forward by the minister for education have been most welcome. The Standing Committee on Education and Training, which was chaired initially by the current minister for education and now by Kerry Bartlett, has highlighted the problems of the imbalance in results between males and females. These initiatives, which have been brought forward by the minister, have been welcomed very much by the community. The fact that he has introduced these programs to develop the performance and the academic success of males in state schools has also been very welcome. Gymea Technology High applied for the resources to undertake a special study in my area, to enhance and lift the performance of the male students in the school. It will then become a Lighthouse school for the other schools in the area and across Sydney, to show them what can be achieved with males given the various incentives and stimulation that are provided under this program. I congratulate the minister on developing and introducing this program. I know that Gymea Technology High is very pleased to have the funds that will assist it in developing this program, and I certainly commend this program to other members in the House.