Half of Pil­bara stu­dents ‘at risk’

Pilbara News - - Education - Court­ney Fowler

A damn­ing re­port by the Au­di­tor-Gen­eral has re­vealed more than 50 per cent of Pil­bara stu­dents are at risk of “life­long con­se­quences” be­cause they miss too much school.

In his re­port, Au­di­tor-Gen­eral Colin Mur­phy warned that al­most 80,000 WA stu­dents were at ed­u­ca­tional risk be­cause they did not go to school regularly.

Reg­u­lar at­ten­dance refers to stu­dents who at­tend school more than 90 per cent of the time, equal to miss­ing up to half a day a week.

Among those at the most risk, schools in the Pil­bara fig­ured highly, with only 47 per cent of all stu­dents in the re­gion at­tend­ing regularly un­der that def­i­ni­tion.

Of the 28 Pil­bara schools ex­am­ined in the re­port, stu­dents at 23 schools were con­sid­ered at se­vere ed­u­ca­tional risk be­cause they missed more than two days of school a week.

Stu­dents at Yande­yarra and Jig­ga­long Re­mote Com­mu­nity Schools were deemed the most at risk, with only 2.8 and 7.3 per cent of stu­dents re­spec­tively at­tain­ing a reg­u­lar at­ten­dance record.

The re­port re­vealed only 9 per cent of stu­dents at Roe­bourne Dis­trict High School at­tended school more than 90 per cent of the school year.

Less than 30 per cent of stu­dents at Onslow and Nul­lagine Pri­mary Schools recorded reg­u­lar at­ten­dance.

Stu­dents at the re­main­ing five schools in the Pil­bara were deemed at mod­er­ate ed­u­ca­tional risk, with 60-79 per cent reg­u­lar at­ten­dance.

Pil­bara Ed­u­ca­tion Re­gional Of­fice ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Sue Cu­neo said low school at­ten­dance was not only an is­sue for schools in the Pil­bara.

She said the Pil­bara Ed­u­ca­tional Re­gional Of­fice was com­mit­ted to im­prov­ing the ed­u­ca­tional achieve­ments of all stu­dents in the re­gion.

“Dur­ing 2014 there were 14 at­ten­dance pan­els con­vened across the State, to date the Pil­bara re­gional of­fice has co-or­di­nated eight pan­els in 2015,” she said.

“There is an on­go­ing fo­cus on build­ing reg­u­lar at­ten­dance in early child­hood, as the ini­tial at­ten­dance pat­tern of a child is a strong in­di­ca­tor of their sub­se­quent at­ten­dance ca­reer.”

Ms Cu­neo said there were many com­plex rea­sons for low at­ten­dance rates and at­ten­tion needed to be given to school, fam­ily, com­mu­nity and in­di­vid­ual fac­tors.

“A ‘one size fits all’ ap­proach to both at­ten­dance and en­gage­ment does not work ... schools need to con­sider their school cul­ture in their plan­ning to im­prove at­ten­dance,” she said.

“Suc­cess­ful strate­gies may in­clude mak­ing reg­u­lar phone calls to par­ents to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion about their child’s progress, us­ing the school carpark as an in­for­mal meet­ing place be­tween the prin­ci­pal and par­ents, and teach­ing staff be­ing avail­able in the school grounds af­ter school.

“There is need for shared re­spon­si­bil­ity for at­ten­dance be­tween stu­dents, par­ents, schools, the com­mu­nity and other agen­cies.”

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Peter Col­lier said par­ents had to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for their chil­dren’s school at­ten­dance, but he did not favour harsh penal­ties.

“Par­ents must be part of the equa­tion,” he said.

“Schools do all they pos­si­bly can, but fun­da­men­tally it must be a dual re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

Mr Mur­phy said it was “dis­ap­point­ing” the Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment had failed to im­prove public school at­ten­dance rates across WA since his last au­dit in 2009, when 72 per cent of stu­dents at­tended regularly, com­pared with 70 per cent now.

The re­port also found the depart­ment’s method of re­port­ing at­ten­dance as an av­er­age rate masked prob­lems by not re­veal­ing the per­cent­age of stu­dents regularly miss­ing school.

It said the “score” might look quite good, even though some stu­dents were ac­tu­ally at se­vere ed­u­ca­tional risk.

The re­port crit­i­cised depart­ment strate­gies that did not im­prove at­ten­dance and its fail­ure to eval­u­ate them.

La­bor Mem­ber for Min­ing and Pas­toral Stephen Daw­son said the “alarm­ing fig­ures” in this re­port should be a “wake-up call” to the Gov­ern­ment.

“While we have ded­i­cated prin­ci­pals and staff at Pil­bara schools, the fact is that far too many kids are miss­ing far too much school,” he said.

“The Min­is­ter for Ed­u­ca­tion needs to get his depart­ment to an­a­lyse the in­for­ma­tion about the pat­terns and rea­sons for non-at­ten­dance so that more stu­dents are stopped from fall­ing through the cracks.”

Pic­ture: Iain Gillespie

State Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Peter Col­lier.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.