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Age group 12 to 17 years

School attendance

The period from 12 to 17 years of age is a critical time for children and young people as they transition from childhood to adolescence and into young adulthood. Regular attendance and engagement in high school is an essential component of this journey.

Overview and areas of concern

While engagement with school and learning is multifaceted, absence is a marker of disengagement and helps predict school completion and future engagement in work or further study.1 Research shows that a higher rate of absence is directly related to a lower level of academic achievementand can lead to diminished employment prospects and, for some, adverse life outcomes including social exclusion and poverty.3

Regular attendance during high school is also directly related to Year 12 completion. Young people with Year 12 qualifications (or equivalent) are more likely to continue further study and have better employment outcomes.4

Data overview

Most young people have high attendance rates at school. In WA, the student attendance rate for Year 7 to Year 10 is slightly below the national average (90.1% compared to 91.0%).

Attendance rates of students in Year 7 to Year 10, WA and Australia, 2014 to 2017

Source: ACARA student attendance dataset

In the Commissioner’s 2016 study, 67.2 per cent of participating students in Years 7 to 12 said attending school every day is very important.

Areas of concern

Aboriginal students in WA have a significant lower attendance level than non-Aboriginal students (29.6% compared to 74.2%). There has been no improvement in this rate over the last three years.

Attendance levels of students in Year 7 to Year 10, by Aboriginal status, WA, 2015 to 2017

Source: ACARA student attendance dataset

Endnotes

  1. The Smith Family 2018, Attendance lifts achievement: Building the evidence base to improve student outcomes, March 2018, The Smith Family.
  2. Hancock KJ et al 2013, Student attendance and educational outcomes: Every day counts, Report for the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.
  3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2015, Australia’s welfare 2015, Australia’s Welfare Series No 12, Cat No AUS 189, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
  4. Ryan C 2011, Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth, Research Report 56: Year 12 completion and youth transitions, National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).
Measure: Attendance rates and levels

School attendance for students in Years 1 to 10 is collected annually through the data set National Student Attendance Data Collection (ACARA - administrative data). This is across all school sectors and jurisdictions in Australia.

Attendance is commonly reported through two measures, attendance rateand attendance level.2 The attendance rate measures the average time students attend school as a proportion of the total number of possible student days. The attendance level records the proportion of students who attend 90 per cent or more of the available days and is therefore useful for identifying the degree of consistent attendance.

In the high school years, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) only reports attendance measures for Year 7 to Year 10. For Year 11 and 12 apparent retention rates are reported.

The attendance rate for all WA Year 7 to Year 10 students has remained stable from 2014 at 90.1 per cent in 2017 per cent, slightly below the national average of 91 per cent.3 Similarly, the attendance level for WA students in Year 7 to Year 10 is slightly lower than the national average (71.2% compared to 73.2%).4

There is little difference in attendance rates and levels between male and female students across the state. Attendance rates and levels decrease as students’ distance from the metropolitan area increases.

Attendance rates and levels for students in Year 7 to Year 10, all school sectors, by gender and remoteness area, in per cent, WA, 2017

Attendance rate

Attendance level

Male

Female

Male

Female

Metropolitan

91.5

91.2

75.2

74.0

Inner regional

89.1

89.1

66.1

65.4

Outer regional

87.2

87.6

60.9

61.7

Remote

81.5

81.0

51.3

50.7

Very remote

65.9

67.2

29.2

32.6

All

90.2

90.0

71.6

70.7

Source: ACARA National Report on Schooling 2017 – Student Attendance dataset

WA children and young people from low socioeconomic backgrounds, Aboriginal students, students who are highly mobile and those whose parents have lower levels of education and occupational status, all have lower levels of attendance, on average.5 The factors that create these differences in attendance are often in place before children start primary school. Research shows that the gap generally remains constant throughout the school years and that it can widen.6 Refer to the Telethon Kids Institute report: Student attendance and educational outcomes: Every day counts for further information. 

The gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students’ attendance levels increases significantly with remoteness. However, the large proportion of Aboriginal students in the metropolitan area who do not attend at least 90 per cent of the time (61.6%) is also of concern.

Attendance levels for students in Year 7 to Year 10, all school sectors, by Aboriginal status and remoteness area, in per cent, WA and Australia, 2017

WA

Australia

Aboriginal

Non-Aboriginal

Aboriginal

Non-Aboriginal

Metropolitan

38.4

76.0

48.0

76.3

Inner regional

33.6

67.8

49.4

71.4

Outer regional

30.3

66.0

44.4

70.6

Remote

20.3

65.2

25.4

66.1

Very remote

12.6

63.5

14.0

61.9

All

29.6

74.2

41.7

74.8

Source: ACARA National Report on Schooling 2017 – Student Attendance dataset

Attendance gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Year 7 to Year 10 students by remoteness area, WA, 2017

Source: ACARA National Report on Schooling 2017 – Student Attendance dataset

Aboriginal high school students in WA have particularly low attendance rates and levels compared to other Australian jurisdictions. The attendance level of WA Aboriginal students (29.6%) is significantly lower than the attendance level of Aboriginal students nationally (41.7%).

Attendance level for Aboriginal students in Year 7 to Year 10, by jurisdiction, in per cent, 2017

Source: ACARA National Report on Schooling 2017 – Student Attendance dataset

These results are partly due to the greater number of Aboriginal students (relative to the non-Aboriginal population) in remote and very remote locations in WA. Although, as the table above highlights, significant differences remain between the attendance levels of Aboriginal students in WA compared to other jurisdictions across all geographic locations. 

The attendance level for WA Aboriginal students in Year 7 to Year 10 has remained low with little change from 2015 (29.5%) to 2017 (29.6%). The attendance rate for WA Aboriginal students in Year 7 to Year 10 decreased from 71.2 per cent in 2014 to 69 per cent in 2017.

In May 2014, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to close the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal school attendance within five years (by 2018). While many Aboriginal students are attending school, the 2018 COAG report notes that Australia, including WA, is not on track to meet this target.7

In the Commissioner’s 2015 consultation with Aboriginal children and young people, Aboriginal children and young people expressed a clear understanding of the connection between a good education and a good quality of life. However, they also identified barriers to attendance including family issues, transport or access difficulties and cultural differences.8 Additionally, in a 2010 Wellbeing Survey conducted on behalf of the Commissioner, Aboriginal children and young people in remote areas spoke of the difficulties of attending school due to the loss of family members and attendance at funerals.9

For further information refer to the CCYP Policy Brief on Aboriginal children and young people and Education. For further discussion of the issues specifically impacting Aboriginal students’ attendance refer to the Closing the Gap Clearing House report, School attendance and retention of Indigenous Australian students and for additional information on the extent to which multiple disadvantage can impact Aboriginal children and young people refer to the National Centre for Longitudinal Data – Multiple Disadvantage paper.

Children and young people engaging in difficult or challenging behaviour

Research shows that regular attendance at school is critical for children and young people to reach their full potential. However, schools do use suspensions and exclusions when students exhibit certain behaviours. Exclusion means a student can no longer attend a particular school, and another school or education program is found for them. 

Reasons for suspensions and exclusions include damage to or theft of property, violation of a school’s code of conduct or school/classroom rules as well as physical aggression, and abuse of staff and other students.10

In 2017, 14,075 primary school and high school students (4.7% of total enrolments) were suspended, compared to 12,649 students (4.3% of total enrolments) in 2016. Of these students, 53.2 per cent were suspended only once. The average length of each suspension was 2.2 days, a 0.1 increase on 2016.11

There were eight exclusions in 2017, the same number as in 2016.12 This represents a substantial and sustained reduction since 2010, when there were 54 exclusions.13

The WA Department of Education is currently reviewing its existing policies relating to the prevention of, and response to, incidents of violence in WA schools. The Commissioner supports a comprehensive review of these policies.

Students who are excluded or are otherwise disengaged from mainstream schooling have a number of alternative education options.

The School of Special Educational Needs: Behaviour and Engagement (SSEN:BE) provides educational support and services for students with extreme, complex and challenging behaviours. The SSEN:BE incorporates the Midland Learning Academy and 13 engagement centres.14 In 2016, the Midland Learning Academy re-engaged 17 severely disengaged students who, by the end of 2016, had an average attendance rate of 80.9 per cent.15 In 2017, the Midland Learning Academy supported 21 students.16 In 2017, the engagement centres managed 788 students across WA.17

Regular attendance is critical for these students, however due to the complexity of their individual circumstances, attendance rates for these students are not comparable to other students in WA. The 2017 annual report of the SSEN:BE provides further information on these attendance rates.

Non-government Curriculum and Reengagement in Education (CARE) schools are also available, which cater to young people in secondary school who are marginalised from mainstream education. Approximately 1,700 WA students are enrolled in CARE Schools which support completion of the WA Certificate of Education.18 Attendance is a key focus for staff at CARE schools as the students enrolled in these schools have often had very low attendance rates in the past. Information on student attendance for each CARE school is generally provided in their performance or annual reports.

Children and young people with medical or mental health issues

For some students a medical or mental health issue prevents them from successfully participating in mainstream school programs, in this case the School of Special Educational Needs: Medical and Mental Health (SSEN:MMH) provides educational programs and services. Support is available for both public and private school students and includes educational programs at Perth Children’s Hospital, within the home or to support transition to the student’s enrolled school. In 2017, the SSEN:MMH had over 60 programs servicing over 5,851 students.19

Children and young people engaging with the SSEN:MMH will often have a medical or mental health issue which impacts on their attendance rates. The attendance rates of students with a low level of contact with SSEN:MMH services over one semester initially decline, however they recover to pre-contact levels. Those students engaged with SSEN:MMH services over multiple semesters due to their more significant medical or mental health issues, will generally continue to have lower attendance rates than the general population.20 For more information on the services provided by the SSEN:MMH, the children and young people accessing these services, and attendance rates refer to the School of Special Educational Needs: Medical and Mental Health 2017 Annual Report.

Children and young people in Banksia Hill Detention Centre

Approximately 170 children and young people aged between 10 and 17 years are held in the Banksia Hill Detention Centre on an average night. In July 2017, the Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services inspected the Banksia Hill Detention Centre and as part of this inspection it was found that the education services delivered at Banksia Hill did not meet community standards.21

Education services at Banksia Hill are not managed by the WA Department of Education and attendance data is not available. The Inspector noted that following some critical incidents in May 2017 the education centre was closed for a period of time and at the time of their review in July 2017 full-time education had not yet been restored. In their review, they noted that through observation of classrooms and feedback from staff and young people many students had disengaged from the learning program and were playing card games or doing colouring-in activities during class times.

The Inspector recommended that if significant improvements are not made over the next three years, serious consideration should be given to transferring responsibility for education at Banksia Hill to the Department of Education.22

All children have the right to an education and for the children and young people in a detention facility an education is particularly important to enable them to create a positive future.

Endnotes

  1. The student attendance rate, KPM 1 (b), is defined as the number of actual full-time equivalent student-days attended by full-time students in Years 1 to 6 as a percentage of the total number of possible student-days that students could have attended over the period.
  2. The student attendance level, KPM 1(c), is defined as the proportion of full-time students in Years 1-6 whose attendance rate is greater than or equal to 90 per cent over the period of Semester one of the reporting year (from 2015).
  3. Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) 2017, National Report on Schooling data portal, Student attendance rate by school sector and state/territory for Year 1-10 students.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Hancock et al 2013, Student attendance and educational outcomes: Every day counts, Report for the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Commonwealth of Australia, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Closing the Gap Prime Minister’s Report 2018.
  8. Commissioner for Children and Young People WA 2015, Listen To Us”: Using the views of WA Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people to improve policy and service delivery, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA.
  9. Nexus Strategy Solutions, Sankey Associates and Fletcher J 2010, Research Report: Children and Young People’s Views on Wellbeing, for the Commissioner for Children and Young People WA, p. 53.
  10. WA Department of Education, 2017 Student Suspension data (website).
  11. Ibid.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Ibid.
  14. WA Department of Education, School of Special Educational Needs: Behaviour and Engagement (website).
  15. WA Department of Education, Final Report 2016-17, p. 30.
  16. WA Department of Education 2018, School of Special Educational Needs: Behaviour and Engagement, 2017 Annual Report.
  17. Ibid.
  18. WA Department of Education 2018, Alphabetical List of Australian Schools with enrolment numbers at 1 September 2018. CARE Schools were identified through a google search and from a WA Department of Education list of Alternative Education Programs: CARE Schools.
  19. WA Department of Education, 2018, School of Special Educational Needs: Medical and Mental Health: 2017 Annual Report.
  20. Ibid.
  21. Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services 2018, 2017 Inspection of Banksia Hill Detention Centre, Government of Western Australia.
  22. Ibid.
Measure: Apparent Year 10 to Year 12 retention rate

Attendance data for Years 11 and 12 are not captured as there are different pathways for students after Year 10. Apparent retention rates provide an indicative measure of the proportion of full-time school students who have stayed at school or equivalent, for a designated year and grade of education.

Apparent Year 10 to Year 12 retention rates of full-time students, all school sectors, by subgroup, in per cent, WA, 2012 to 2017

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

Male

74.1

77.6

82.9

77.5

77.9

80.3

Female

81.8

84.4

89.2

84.8

83.3

86.0

Aboriginal

45.4

53.5

61.7

56.1

51.4

57.5

All

77.8

81.0

85.9

81.0

80.5

83.1

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 4221.0 Schools, Australia 2017, Table 90a Key Information by States and Territories, 2012-2017

Apparent Year 10 to Year 12 retention rates of full-time students, all school sectors, by subgroup, WA, 2012 to 2017

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 4221.0 Schools, Australia 2017, Table 90a Key Information by States and Territories, 2012-2017

There has been a relatively consistent increase in Year 10 to Year 12 retention rates over time for male and female students, and for Aboriginal students.

The very high 2014 rates were impacted by high net overseas and interstate migration and more students moving to vocational education and training providers than in previous years. These events were not sustained and the rates returned to levels more consistent with 2013 in 2015.2

Overall, the consistent improvement in retention rates for WA Aboriginal students is encouraging.

Vocational Education and Training (VET) and other Year 12 equivalents

In WA, students are required to remain at school or participate in an approved non‑school option (such as VET or an apprenticeship) until the end of the year they turn 17 years and six months of age, or graduate from high school.

While most young people complete Year 12 at high school (this can include a VET in schools component), some young people aged 16 to 17 years pursue VET outside of the school system.

Student participation in year of turning 17 years of age, in per cent, WA, 2012 to 2016

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

School

79.1

81.6

82.4

79.0

80.9

Non-school arrangements

12.4

10.4

10.0

11.4

9.6

Other

3.8

2.2

2.6

4.8

4.0

Not participating

4.7

5.8

5.0

4.8

5.5

Total

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

Source:WA School Curriculum and Standards Authority, Annual Reports 2012 to 2016

Student participation in year of turning 17 years of age, in per cent, WA, 2012 to 2016

Source:WA School Curriculum and Standards Authority, Annual Reports 2012 to 2016

An alternative measure that is commonly reported is the proportion of young people aged 20 to 24 years who have achieved Year 12 or equivalent. While this is not reporting on the current cohort of 16 to 17 year olds it highlights changes over time.

In 2017, 85.4 per cent of WA 20 to 24 year olds had a Year 12 (or equivalent) or non-school qualification at Certification II level or above. This has increased from 78.2 per cent in 2006.3

The Year 12 or equivalent attainment rates of WA Aboriginal 20 to 24 year olds are well below the attainment rates of WA non-Aboriginal young people, however have significantly improved from 39.6 per cent in 2006 to 59.9 per cent in 2016.4

Nevertheless, there remains a significant gap between the Year 12 equivalent attainment rates of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal young people, which requires an ongoing focus.

Endnotes

  1. ABS definition: This provides an indicative measure of the number of school students who have stayed at school for a designated grade and year. It is calculated by dividing the number of students in a cohort in a specific calendar year by the number of students in the same cohort in a previous reference year. It is expressed as a percentage. For example, an ARR for Years 10 to 12 in 2014 would measure the proportion of Year 10 students in 2012 that had continued to Year 12 in 2014.
  2. Western Australian, Department of Education, Annual Report 2017-18, Effectiveness Indicators, p. 97.
  3. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, 6227.0 - Education and Work, May 2017, Table 31 Educational Attainment: Year 12 (or equivalent) or non-school qualification at Certificate Level II or above<persons aged 15-64.
  4. Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Closing the Gap Prime Minister’s Report 2018, Commonwealth of Australia.
Measure: Importance of attending school

While attendance rates and levels provide an objective measure of school attendance, it is also important to understand how students view school and their perspectives on the importance of attending school. This represents a valid measure of student’s engagement and their likely participation.

In 2016, the Commissioner conducted the School and Learning Consultation which sought the views of Year 3 to Year 12 students enrolled in government, Catholic and independent schools across WA on the positive and negative factors that influence their engagement in education.1

Students in Year 7 to Year 12 generally perceived attending school every day to be important – two-thirds of Year 7 to Year 12 students said it was ‘very important’ to them to be at school every day and 29 per cent said it was ‘somewhat important’ to them. The remaining four per cent answered that this is ‘not important’ to them.2

Proportion of Year 7 to Year 12 WA students saying being at school every day is very important, somewhat important or not important, by selected characteristics, in per cent

Male

Female

Metropolitan

Regional

Non-Aboriginal

Aboriginal

All

Very important

64.9

69.6

69.5

61.8

67.5

63.4

67.2

Somewhat important

30.9

26.5

26.9

32.4

28.3

31.7

28.6

Not important

4.2

3.9

3.6

5.8

4.2

4.9

4.3

Source: Commissioner for Children and Young People WA 2018, School and Learning Consultation: Technical Report

There were no significant differences between male and female students and between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students in Year 7 to Year 12.

There was however a significant regional difference between male Year 7 to Year 12 students: 56.4 per cent of male students in regional areas answered that being at school every day is ‘very important’ to them – a significantly smaller proportion than the 69.1 per cent of male students in metropolitan areas who said the same.3

When students in the School and Learning Consultation were asked how important their parents or the people who look after them think it is that they go to school every day, 76.3 per cent of all Year 7 to Year 12 respondents answered ‘very important’ to this question and 21.9 per cent said ‘important’. A very small proportion of students (1.8%) reported that their parents or carers say it is not very important.  

There was no significant difference between male and female students, students in regional and metropolitan areas or between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students in regard to how important regular school attendance is to their families.

Endnotes

  1. The Commissioner for Children and Young People’s School and Learning Consultation was conducted from July to November 2016. The purpose of the Consultation was to seek the views of Year 3 to Year 12 students enrolled in government, Catholic and independent schools across WA on the positive and negative factors that influence their engagement in education. In total, 1,812 students across 98 schools participated in the survey and 1,174 students participated in the group discussion between July and November 2016. Schools from all nine geographic regions of WA were involved in the consultation. For more information refer: Commissioner for Children and Young People 2018, School and Learning Consultation: Technical Report, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA.
  2. Commissioner for Children and Young People 2018, School and Learning Consultation: Technical Report, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA.
  3. Ibid.
Young people in care

Children and young people in care often face significant barriers to educational attainment and reaching their full potential. However, educational participation and attainment are pivotal to their long-term outcomes.1

The WA Department of Education has provided attendance rates and levels for all compulsory school-aged WA children and young people in care. While this data is not directly comparable to the ACARA data above,2 in 2017, 35.7 per cent of children and young people in care did not attend school more than 90 per cent of the available time.

Attendance for all compulsory school-aged children and young people (Pre-primary to year 12) in care, in per cent, WA, 2016 and 2017.

Attendance rate

Attendance level

90% or greater

80% - <90%

60% - < 80%

<60%

2016
Semester 1

86.9

65.7

15.7

8.8

9.9

2017
Semester 1

87.4

64.3

17.0

9.8

8.9

Source: WA Department of Education Administrative data provided to Commissioner for Children and Young People WA (unpublished).

Similarly, the WA Department of Communities 2015 Outcomes Framework report shows that the attendance level (regularly attending) of all WA students in care attending government schools was 67.1 per cent (58.8% for Aboriginal students and 76.1% for non-Aboriginal students).3

In other words, only around two-thirds of students in care attend for at least 90 per cent of the time. This is significantly lower than the attendance level for all students in government schools of 73.7 per cent.4

There is no data on the apparent retention rates or Year 12 equivalent achievement for WA young people who are, or were in, out-of-home care. A 2009 survey completed by CREATE Foundation found that only 35.3 per cent of Australian care leavers surveyed had completed Year 12.5

For further information on the attendance and achievement levels of children and young people in care refer:

Endnotes

  1. Tilbury C 2010, Educational status of children and young people in care, Children Australia, Vol 35, No 4.
  2. Data provided by the WA Department of Education to the Commissioner, noting the following: children in care are flagged in the Department’s administrative enrolment data, Semester 1 student attendance data is verified by school principals, and the attendance rate is the average half days attended as a percentage of available half days.
  3. Number of children at compulsory school age who have been in care for the entire reporting period and are regularly attending (90 per cent attendance) an education program, divided by the number of children at compulsory school age who have been in care for the entire reporting period, expressed as a percentage. Source: WA Department for Child Protection and Family Support 2016, Outcomes framework for children in out-of-home care in Western Australia: 2015-2016 Baseline Indicator Report, WA Department for Child Protection and Family Support.
  4. Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) 2017, National Report on Schooling data portal, Student attendance rate by school sector and state/territory for Year 1-10 students.
  5. McDowall JJ 2009, CREATE Report Card 2009 - Transitioning from care: Tracking progress, CREATE Foundation, p. 55.
Young people with disability

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states that people with disability should be guaranteed the right to inclusive education at all levels, and that children and young people with disability must not be excluded from free and compulsory primary education or from secondary education.

Students with disability commonly either attend special schools that enrol only students with special needs, special classes within a mainstream school or mainstream classes within a mainstream school (where students with disability might receive additional assistance).1

In 2009, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported on the prevalence of disability amongst children and young people aged five to 20 years in Australian schools. In WA, 9.3 per cent of children and young people aged five to 20 years attending school had a disability in 2009.2 This analysis has not been repeated.

A new data collection – the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability – provides a detailed snapshot of students receiving an adjustment for disability across Australia. This collection is still in the early stages of implementation and data cannot be compared across states, however the data for WA shows that around one in five students received some level of adjustment to access education in 2017.

Students with disability receiving adjustments by level of adjustment as a percentage of the total student population, in per cent, WA, 2016 and 2017

Level of adjustment

2016

2017

Support with Quality Differentiated Teaching Practice

7.0

8.9

Supplementary

7.8

8.3

Substantial

2.0

2.5

Extensive

0.8

0.8

All adjustments

17.6

20.5

Source: Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability in Education Council, 2016 and 2017 - data on students in Australian schools receiving adjustments for disability.

The data set is designed to collect information on the full range of students receiving adjustments to support their access and participation in learning because of disability, not just those who have a medical diagnosis. The data is collected by teachers using their professional judgement, based on evidence, to classify the adjustment levels.3

For an overview of school attendance for students with disability, refer to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare paper, Disability in Australia: changes over time in inclusion and participation in education.  

Limited data exists on school attendance rates or levels for WA young people with disability.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics collects data on the highest year of school completed for people with disability in each jurisdiction. However this reports data for all persons aged 15 years and over.4

In 2013, the Centre for Disability Research and Policy at the University of Sydney analysed the annual survey of Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) to determine that the proportion of 20 to 24 year old Australian young people with disability attaining Year 12 or Certificate II has increased, and the gap between young people with disability and those without has decreased on this measure.5

Limited data exists on Year 12 retention rates for WA young people with disability.

It is therefore difficult to assess how WA young people with disability are faring in relation to equal access to education.

Twenty-one students attending Year 3 to Year 12 at various education support centres for children and young people with disability throughout WA participated in the School and Learning Consultation. This is a small sample and therefore cannot be deemed representative of students with disability. Nevertheless, all of these students said it was important to them to be at school every day.6

In addition, 178 students with disability and/or a long-term health condition who attend Year 7 to Year 12 at a mainstream school also participated. These students were significantly less likely than students with no such health problems to say that being at school every day was ‘very important’ to them (59.6% compared to 72.0%).

More research is required into the school experiences of both students with disability at special schools and students with disability in mainstream schools.

Endnotes

  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2017, Disability in Australia: changes over time in inclusion and participation in education, Cat No DIS 69, AIHW.
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2013, 4429.0 - Profiles of Disability, Australia, 2009, Table 6 Children with a disability at school.
  3. Education Council, Nationally Consistent Collection of Data: School students with disability 2017, 2017 data on students in Australian schools receiving adjustments for disability.
  4. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2015, 4430.0 - Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings.
  5. Emerson E et al 2013, Left Behind: 2013, Monitoring the social inclusion of young Australians with self-reported long-term health conditions, impairments or disabilities 2001 – 2011 – Technical Report, Centre for Disability Research and Policy, University of Sydney, p. 16.
  6. Responses from a small sample of students (n = 21) and across Year 3 to Year 12. Commissioner for Children and Young People 2017, Speaking Out About School and Learning, The views of WA children and young people on factors that support their engagement in school and learning, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA.
Policy implications

Student absences from school are influenced by a combination of home, school and individual factors. However, the relative importance of the various causes is contested. Parents and students tend to highlight school-related factors (for example, poor teaching and failure to engage students); while educators tend to stress parental attitudes and the home environment.1,2

Improving the outcomes for disadvantaged students requires multiple approaches with shared responsibility between students, families, schools, communities and a range of government agencies.3

Parents have an important role in encouraging their children to value and enjoy school and learning. There is strong evidence showing that parental expectations and attitudes towards school significantly influence children’s experiences and outcomes.Parent participation in school activities, such as, visiting their children’s class, attending assemblies and parent-teacher nights and volunteering, all provide a mechanism to allow parents to demonstrate their interest in their children’s education.

Families experiencing disadvantage and stress often struggle to engage in this manner, therefore additional services and programs can provide support.5 Research also suggests that ensuring parents are better informed about how poor attendance adversely impacts on their children’s future wellbeing will also improve results.6

Schools have a significant role to play in improving attendance levels. A 2010 study found that there were very few high-quality evaluations of programs to improve attendance, therefore evidence about what works is lacking.7 However, there are a number of indicators that highlight when a child or young person is having difficulty, some of which suggest the following for policy and practice: 

  • Focus early on students with a high level of unauthorised absences, which are more strongly associated with low achievement, than authorised absences.8
  • Provide intensive and early assistance to students who are falling behind in literacy and numeracy so that poor attendees can make progress and those at risk of disengaging are supported.9
  • Policy and programs should continue to be developed that take account of Aboriginal cultures and history, and develop expanded understandings of what it means to participate and engage in education.10
  • Develop educational programs in collaboration with parents and community-based organisations.11
  • For students with disability good practice includes moving towards an inclusive education culture through policy and practice, including the development of appropriate support structures and funding regimes, and in-class changes including alternative curricula, individual planning and the use of technologies.12

Data gaps

Data reporting on the attendance rates and levels of students with disability is needed; without this it is difficult to assess whether children and young people with disability are being provided with consistent and equitable access to education and support and to allow comparisons with children and young people without disability.

Data on attendance rates and levels of children and young people in juvenile detention (Banksia Hill) should also be collected and reported on.

Endnotes

  1. Purdie N and Buckley S 2010, School attendance and retention of Indigenous Australian students, Issues Paper No 1, produced for the Closing the Gap Clearinghouse, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and Australian Institute of Family Studies.
  2. Queensland Department of Education, Training and Employment 2013, Performance insights: School attendance.
  3. Hancock et al 2013, Student attendance and educational outcomes: Every day counts, Report for the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.
  4. Family-School and Community Partnership Bureau, Fact Sheet: Parent engagement in learning, Australian Government.
  5. Hancock KJ and Zubrick SR 2015, Children and young people at risk of disengagement from school, prepared by Telethon Kids Institute for the Commissioner for Children and Young People WA.
  6. Hancock et al 2013, Student attendance and educational outcomes: Every day counts, Report for the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.
  7. Purdie N and Buckley S 2010, School attendance and retention of Indigenous Australian students, Issues Paper No 1, produced for the Closing the Gap Clearinghouse, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and Australian Institute of Family Studies.
  8. Hancock et al 2013, Student attendance and educational outcomes: Every day counts, Report for the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.
  9. The Smith Family 2018, Attendance lifts achievement: Building the evidence base to improve student outcomes, March 2018, The Smith Family.
  10. Purdie N and Buckley S 2010, School attendance and retention of Indigenous Australian students, Issues Paper No 1, produced for the Closing the Gap Clearinghouse, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and Australian Institute of Family Studies.
  11. Ibid.
  12. The Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) 2013, Inclusive Education for Students with Disability: A review of the best evidence in relation to theory and practice, ARACY.
Further resources

For more information on school attendance refer to the following resources:

For more information on young people’s views, see Speaking out about School and Learning.