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Wednesday, 1 June 2005
Page: 148

Mr GARRETT (9:31 AM) —I rise to record my experience as Principal for a Day—a program run in New South Wales, and perhaps in other states, whereby community, business and opinion leaders, and politicians are invited to spend a day, or a portion thereof, with the principal of a public school in order to gain first-hand insight into the current state of public education—its challenges and its achievements.

Last year I visited the Matraville Soldiers Settlement School, a primary school in the electorate of Kingsford Smith with a school population drawn from many cultural backgrounds, many of the parents having recently arrived in Australia, including a number of Aboriginal children too. I was taken by the high level of care shown by staff, particularly to kids with physical or mental challenges. In past times, these kids would have been isolated in institutions. Nowadays they are embraced as full members of the school community. The school supported these kids, as well as other kids in the school, and worked closely with families to get the best out of the kids at this important stage of their education. I commend the principal and the staff for their untiring efforts at Matraville.

This year, I had the opportunity to visit Randwick Boys High and again was struck by the generous spirit and obvious dedication shown to students by teaching staff and by the very real achievements of the student body. Numbered amongst them were outstanding athletes, kids with fine academic records and those making real contributions in art, music, science and, more generally, to the life of the school community. Given the recent patterns of curriculum choices we have seen in Australia, where there has not been a great emphasis on learning in science and technology, I was particularly pleased to see the science labs full and humming with senior students.

Naturally, I enjoyed the performance of the composite orchestra, made up of a string section, the local band and students from the collegiate school next door, Randwick Girls High. Playing together, they made absolutely wonderful sounds. The measurable benefits of learning a musical instrument, the foundational role music plays in our culture and, of course, the way playing music with other people brings the school community together, cannot be underestimated.

Principals have a range of complex responsibilities as they lead and inspire their schools. At Randwick Boys High and Matraville Soldiers Settlement, I saw their good efforts first hand and I commend them to the House.