Watchful eye on truants

DESPITE low numbers of truancy in our high schools, the students who do wag school are still a problem.

Lismore High School principal Peter Campbell spoke to The Northern Star about his ‘School Attendance Program’

“We focus on kids on their way to sport who go via Lismore Square or who go before school and arrive late and miss sign-on,” Mr Campbell said.

The School Attendance Program is run across the Community of Schools which includes Richmond River, Kadina, Nimbin Central, Wilson Park and Lismore High.

In partnership with the Department of Education and Training, the NSW Police and Lismore Square, the program has been running since September and while it is difficult to evaluate its impact, Mr Campbell said the deterrent factor is high.

Students who are seen at Lismore Shopping Square during school hours will not be served in shops unless they show a school attendance pass. If they can’t, shop owners will call police who will then escort the students back to school and their parents will be contacted, Mr Campbell said.

There are posters up in Lismore Shopping Square to alert businesses and shoppers to the program.

“Some customers to Lismore Square may prefer to shop without the kids running around,” Mr Campbell said.

With the Community of Schools involved the students are getting the same message from each school.

That message, according to Mr Campbell is: “If you are down the street someone will question you. We expect you to be at school.”

NSW Education Department figures on truancy are difficult to assess, an education department spokesperson said.

There are explained absences and unexplained absences, sometimes simply because a parent didn’t send a note to school about why their child wasn’t at school.

While there are no clear figures, every day it is estimated 92 per cent of students are at school.

Taking into account explained absences, there are an estimated one per cent of students who truant on any given school day.

The Community of Schools started working together at the end of 2007. They coordinate discipline and welfare policy and are working at co-ordinating bell times and timetables.

The School Attendance Program will continue next year.

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