Stu­dent at­ten­dance pol­icy

The Amherst News - - COVER STORY - Ge­off de Gannes

will pre­pare young peo­ple for the work world

Those of us from the baby boomer gen­er­a­tion can vividly re­call that be­ing late for school or ab­sent from class with­out a le­git­i­mate ex­cuse was grounds for pun­ish­ment. Miss enough classes and the teacher did not hes­i­tate from giv­ing you a fail­ing grade.

There were con­se­quences for your ac­tions. The term in those days was tru­ancy. Over time, the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem has taken a slip­pery slope in how it has been ad­dress­ing the is­sue of ab­sen­teeism from the class­room.

As pro­fes­sor of ed­u­ca­tion Paul Ben­nett of Saint Mary’s Univer­sity wrote last year, “Miss­ing school and skip­ping classes can be­come habit-form­ing. When stu­dents are re­peat­edly ab­sent and there are no con­se­quences, it be­comes en­grained in school cul­ture.”

Pro­fes­sor Ben­nett con­tends that based on the sta­tis­tics he’s seen, we have an ab­sen­teeism cri­sis in this prov­ince. Nova Sco­tia’s Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Zach Churchill doesn’t go quite that far. Al­though, it is enough of a con­cern that, at long last, the prov­ince is now tak­ing steps to ad­dress the prob­lem with a tougher new pol­icy. And for once, it is re­fresh­ing to see the gov­ern­ment and the Nova Sco­tia Teach­ers Union work­ing to­gether on a pol­icy they can both wholeheartedly en­dorse.

The new Pro­vin­cial Stu­dent At­ten­dance and En­gage­ment Pol­icy will take ef­fect Oct. 1. Among the mea­sures: Grade 10 to 12 stu­dents who miss 20 per cent of classtime for a given course may lose the credit for that course, even if they are get­ting a pass­ing mark.

When the rate at which a stu­dent misses class or is late reaches 10 per cent, the school will con­tact the par­ent or guardian. Teach­ers will only pro­vide stu­dents with the ma­te­rial they missed dur­ing their ab­sences if a re­quest is made by the prin­ci­pal.

Ob­vi­ously, there can be le­git­i­mate un­der­ly­ing rea­sons why some young peo­ple are miss­ing an in­or­di­nate amount of time from classes in­clud­ing men­tal health is­sues, sub­stance abuse and a lack of fam­ily sup­port. Hope­fully the new track­ing pol­icy will bet­ter equip teach­ers and other sup­port staff to in­ter­vene when they no­tice a stu­dent’s at­ten­dance is slip­ping.

As Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Churchill has pointed out, the changes are de­signed to put more stu­dents in the class­room where they be­long and it cre­ates in­cen­tives to do that. It also serves to teach our young peo­ple that they have to be ac­count­able and re­spon­si­ble for their ac­tions and there are con­se­quences when you can’t abide by those reg­u­la­tions. Too of­ten those bad habits carry over later in life in the work­place and your em­ployer is not likely to be as for­giv­ing as your teacher or prin­ci­pal.

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