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School attendance issues need comprehensive solutions

Media Release
Rachel Siewert 20 Dec 2013

The Australian Greens have raised concerns over plans to send truancy officers into remote communities, saying the complex issues which prevent kids going to school need broader and more comprehensive solutions.

"Rushing the placement of untrained truancy officers in time for the new school year is unlikely to have a sustained impact, given the complex issues that Aboriginal families and children are struggling with that contribute to poor attendance at school," Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Issues said today.

"Nobody argues that education is a key to helping end Aboriginal disadvantage but it is simplistic to imply that these issues are as easy to overcome as putting a few truancy officers in place.

"Any efforts to improve school attendance need to address the underlying factors that prevent kids going to school in the first place, and then ensure that their experience at school is a strong and nurturing one.

"It is important to ensure that enough resources are dedicated to quality teaching and suitable class sizes to deal with the needs of many children in remote communities. We also need to see investments to support bilingual education, more language and culture in schooling, full time parent liaison officers and parent support groups.

"Action is also needed in key health areas, such as hearing health, that seriously affect a child's ability to perform at school. Conditions like otitis media affect Aboriginal children at an earlier age and to a significantly more severe degree than national averages or accepted public health levels.

"I would be deeply concerned if measures around truancy officers and income management become the "go to" response for improving school attendance.

"Any approach to help kids stay in school needs to be based on evidence and be developed in cooperation with the communities in question," Senator Siewert concluded.


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