Call to action to improve school attendance

Significant problems with school student attendance and retention rates in South Australia have not been addressed with adequate resources and strategies, and remain a serious concern, according to a new report from Flinders University.

Andrew Bills

With about 5000 young people in South Australia, and an estimated 50,000 nationally, the call to action is strong, say Flinders University researchers Dr Andrew Bills and Nigel Howard, who is also affiliated with UniSA.

The report – It’s Time to Act – comes as a response, and update, to the watershed 2000 SA report into school disengagement and detachment Listen to me; I’m Leaving, and the 2019 national report Those Who Disappear.

Many of the statistics the new academic report are alarming, including that:

  • 1 in 4 school students in SA miss more than a month of schooling a year
  • 1 in 2 Indigenous primary students in SA miss more than a month of schooling per year; and
  • 1 in 3 Year 10 students in SA schools miss more than a month of schooling a year.

 Retention rates were equally disturbing – with 3 in 10 public school students not enrolling in Year 12 following the completion of year 11; and that 1 in 4 South Australians aged 20-to-24 have not completed Year 12.

 “South Australia can lead the way in addressing school disengagement but we need a

Nigel Howard

government and education sector that is willing to work closely together in the interests of young people,” says Dr Bills, from Flinders University’s College of Education, Psychology and Social Work.

 “What’s needed is a carefully crafted response to a very complex problem and this can only be done if we tackle all the barriers that occur in and out of school and increase schools’ ability to be responsive and flexible in supporting young people through all stages of their education.”

The report comes with nine important recommendations:

  1. A commitment to designing a cross-sector youth compact for disadvantaged students
  2. Talk and listen to young people
  3. Talk and listen to school leaders, teachers and service providers
  4. Design a roadmap to work across the sectors and share information
  5. Early intervention to stop children leaving in the early years of secondary education
  6. Wrap around support at a local level
  7. Recognise flexible and alternative education as integral to the school ecosystem
  8. Act on the need for a new kind of teacher
  9. Mainstream school redesign is long overdue

“It is crucial for educators that we turn more serious attention to this neglected problem and to act swiftly on the recommendations,” says Dr Bills.

The release of It’s Time to Act coincided with a SA Youth Policy Forum entitled ‘Those who Disappear: The Education problem nobody wants to talk about’ – hosted by Flinders University at Victoria Square on 10 November which included the SA Commissioner for Children and Young People Helen Connolly, Education Department and Catholic school and independent school representatives. 

Read the It’s Time to Act report here and watch the forum online here

School News

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