Making progress: Maryborough West State School principal Robyn Jackson talks about truancy.
Making progress: Maryborough West State School principal Robyn Jackson talks about truancy. Jocelyn Watts

Initiative pays off for school

IN JUST one year the unexplained absences of students at Maryborough West State School have decreased by 35 per cent.

Principal Robyn Jackson credits the sharp turnaround to the success of the Every Day Counts campaign, which encourages students and their parents to make attending every school day a priority.

“We publicise this message to parents through our weekly school newsletter and to the students at assemblies,” Ms Jackson said.

“Students achieve better if they go to school every day.”

But it's not just all talk — the school has a policy of following up unexplained absences by directly contacting parents.

“If a student is away and we don't know why, we ring parents to clarify if there is a problem,” Ms Jackson said.

“We ask what we can do to help get the child to school and we work with the parents and with our school Adopt-A-Cop.

“We also have a school disco at the end of each term to celebrate the achievements of those students who regularly attend school.”

While Maryborough West focuses on encouragement, support and reward strategies to keep kids coming to school, other Queensland schools are trying alternative methods.

Education Minister Geoff Wilson supported the trial of initiatives to help boost school attendance.

The department has suggested a range of methods, including the refusal of shop service to school-age children during school hours, text message alerts to parents of absent children, stronger ties with the Queensland Police Service and the suspension of welfare payments to parents whose children are regularly absent from school.

“Many of these initiatives are being trialled now across Queensland and each one is proving valuable in its own way to getting kids in school and keeping them in school,” Mr Wilson said.

“These initiatives do not seek to solve the problem on their own but, taken together, provide a well-rounded way forward.”



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