The Aboriginal Education Directorate of the WA Department of Education initiated an attendance grants program in 2002 to explore the potential of District Education Offices and schools to implement new strategies that could bring about improved attendance of Aboriginal students at school.
The specific brief of the program was to implement "innovative programs that will increase attendance and participation of Aboriginal students in compulsory and post compulsory levels of schooling".
A key requirement was that the programs should be innovative and locally based, with districts and schools seeking to improve attendance through designing strategies based on local needs and dealing with issues at a local level.
Eight projects were funded, one from each of Bunbury, Cannington, Fremantle, Kimberley, Peel, Swan, and Warren-Blackwood District Education Districts and one from Central Office.
The strategies included:
All of these projects had the potential to improve attendance, but some strategies require longer timeframes than others to generate results, and the urgency of the problem requires inputs that bring rapid outcomes. The principal requirement of an attendance strategy is to get the students to school on a regular basis.
To do this, personnel are required to locate them and get them to attend. Then services can be applied to ensure that the conditions that lead to non-attendance are rectified.
Approaches that focused on teacher change and interagency collaboration were most powerful. Attention to health, housing, financial support and family functionality are prerequisites to an orderly life, which is essential for regular attendance. These problems do not reside with the school and so the promotion of interagency collaboration is essential. Schools need to work with other agencies to provide a holistic framework for student participation in education.
The Centre for Indigenous Australian Knowledges conducted the evaluation on behalf of the WA Department of Education.
Professor Gary Partington
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