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Community teamwork to increase school attendance

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Large group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous men and women dressed in casual clothing in a room with beige carpet. In the background is a pale yellow wall and two whiteboards. In the foreground is a white table and blue chairs.
Aurukun Koolkan Community School RSAS team getting help from NESA and Aurukun stakeholders. (Photo courtesy of NESA)
15 Mar 2018

Sometimes getting kids to school means sitting down, forming a plan and working as a team.

And that’s what the Aurukun Koolkan Community School Remote School Attendance Strategy (RSAS) team did. With help from the National Employment Services Association, the RSAS team met at the Aurukun Training Centre from 6-8 February to workshop what is a top priority for the community of Aurukun.

The workshop itself was a practical, outcomes focused session designed to contribute to the 2018 school attendance plan. It devised local solutions for local issues; ones that could be delivered over the whole year.

As part of the workshop, the RSAS team completed a school attendance letter for the community that invited parents and stakeholders to support them in getting kids to school.

A school attendance stakeholder day was held on the 8 February where the RSAS team sought support from groups including the Aurukun Shire Council, Cape York Employment, Cape York Partnership and the Family Responsibilities Commission.

Mike Ennis is the Aurukun Koolkan Community School Principal.

‘We’ve had an excellent start to the year with consistently improved attendance,’ Mike said.

‘And staff confidence has improved significantly.’

Deputy Principal Kathy Ona agrees and said morning bus pickups are very successful.

‘We are having an average of 40-60 children getting on the buses, some with parents or carers, thus increasing parental involvement at school,’ Kathy said.

‘The RSAS Team are respected at school and in the community – the wearing of their shirts is a clear indicator of their role.’

It takes a team, working together, performing multiple tasks to bring about long lasting change. For example, the RSAS executive team at school takes turns driving the bus.

‘Teachers and RSAS team members have formed closer working relationships. The RSAS team now ‘pop in’ to classes from time to time, are available to assist with home visits and are more involved in the playground,’ Kathy said.

At the end of 2017, students who achieved a school attendance rate over 90% were rewarded with an educational trip to the Gold Coast. This included visits to schools in South East Queensland and visiting the Preston Campbell Foundation at Dreamworld.

‘Having a successful end of year, especially with the Wik [school attendance] Awards and the Gold Coast trip, put the importance of attending school and opportunity for success, out in the community,’ Kathy said.

‘Also the roles of all agencies during the holidays and successful activities promoting the start of school, assisted.’

The workshop was catered for by the local ‘My Kitchen Rules’ Community Development Programme activity.

Find out more

Getting children to school every day is the Australian Government’s number one priority for Indigenous children and their families.

The Remote School Attendance Strategy is about working together – with schools, families, parents, and community organisations – to ensure all children go to school every day.

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