Another strategy to get kids to school in remote communities


In the Northern Territory’s remote communities only 13% of kids are attending school 80% of the time, says Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion. 80% is generally regarded as the minimum required to make learning progress. Describing the situation as “horrific” Senator Scullion has announced a two-year strategy, costing $28.4 million, to break “the cycle of non-attendance”.
The government’s strategy is initially focused on 40 schools in four states and the NT, where they will fund Attendance Supervisors to manage and develop up to five School Attendance Officers in each community.
The NT has 18 of the initial 40 schools and statistics released by Senator Scullion show them to be at the bottom of the ladder. In the period 2008-12 only one, Bulmann School, had an average attendance rate over 70%, with 71%. Eight of them had averages below 60%, including two schools, Yuendumu and Maningrida, with averages of just 45%.
Other NT schools being targeted by the program are: Alekarenge (55%), Barunga (69%), Xavier Catholic College at Bathurst Island (66%), Wugularr at Beswick (59%), Borroloola (58%), Epenarra (60%), Shepherdson College at Galiwinku (52%), Gapuwiyak (61%), Gunbalanya (51%), Lajamanu (50%), Milingimbi (59%), Ntaria (63%), Ramingining (63%), Ltyentye Apurte Catholic School at Santa Teresa (65%), Tennant Creek Primary (69%) and Yirrkala (56%).
The School Attendance Officers will be sourced through the Remote Jobs and Communities Program – five officers per 100 enrolled children. The Indigenous Communities Strategic Investment and Community Development Funds will provide them with uniforms, vehicles and office space.
“Attendance Officers and supervisors will have working with children cards and will personally visit houses where students have not attended to get them to school, not just once, but each and every school day,” says Senator Scullion.
“Arrangements will be tailored to suit the particular needs of each community. As well as working in the morning to get kids to school, some Attendance Officers will work after school to engage with children and families in after school activities to build a commitment to, and pattern of attendance.
“I have spoken with Premiers/Chief Minister as well as Education and Indigenous Affairs Ministers across the five jurisdictions to ensure we have a bipartisan approach.
“This is critical to ensure we not only get children back to school on day one next year, but keep them returning. It will be up to the states and the Northern Territory to ensure there are adequate resources at each school to meet the needs of students. We can’t build a pattern of attendance if there aren’t desks and materials for each child who is enrolled and should be attending.”
Senator Scullion’s announcement did not refer to sanctions against parents/carers if they do not send their children to school. The strategy is decsribed as following a “model of active engagement”.
Note: The My School website defines the student attendance rate as “the total (aggregated) attendance rate across year levels … for the relevant school. It refers to the number of actual student days attended during the period as a percentage of the number of possible student days attended during the period. Definitions and the method of collection may vary across states and territories.”


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