I believe that the major reason Education is failing, particularly in the Northern Territory and most particularly in remote areas, has to do with chronic non-school attendance.

The issue of attendance at school has been one dogging the Northern Territory Education Department since 1979 – when the Northern Territory Government accepted responsibility of schools management.

School attendance is something that has always been treated in an almost light-hearted manner. I say “light hearted“ because although they have been rules, regulations, procedures and various initiatives put in place to counter non-attendance, very few have worked.

They have been catch cries, buzzwords, fantastic phrases, federal and territory employment of a legion of school attendance office is under various names, and so on. At the end of the day most of this has been dressage and very little is carried through to any sort of consequent outcome.

In 2014 when Bruce Wilson carried out a review of education in the Northern Territory he suggested in his report at school attendance for indigenous students of three days a week. At least that was the inference of his report.

Truancy is the subject about which I’ve written on many occasions over the years. I did it as a principle of remote area schools and have continued to push the need for full-time school attendance in the years since.

I was principle of Angurugu School on Groote Eylandt from 1979 to 1982. During my time Angurugu School enjoy the high levels of school attendance. There were programs in place to ensure that attendance was maintained and action was taken at school attendance for any reason fell away. I would be more than happy to go into the management strategies negotiated between our school in the community to ensure high level school attendance.

Suffice it to say that a partnership existed between the school and community which ensured that school attendance was at a high level and maintained. I despair in my soul to know that these days attendance at that school is the lowest of any in Australia at around about 18%. Without casting aspersions, I would suggest that it’s to do with people not doing their jobs and not managing the issue – because it can be managed.

One of the exacerbating points for me is that as the Department of Education and various professional associations seek to tackle this issue and those related to it, they do so without ever considering what might have happened in the past to manage the issues they find so challenging. There is no way known that Contemporary leaders are at all interested in any historical exploration either by way of consulting documents or talking to people who have been there and done that successfully.

Truancy will continue to be the number one educational detractor in the NT. For various reasons, the issue is becoming more entrenched and is not contracting.

Truancy has always been and remains a chronic educational problem in the NT. There ARE ways of minimising the issue that HAVE worked for some in the past. They require both proactivity and fortitude, qualities that on this issue, have forsaken government and the Education Department.

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