The statistics on truancy are very worrying. Not only do we have 72,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 out of work and out of any form of education, but we have 30,000 students a day not wanting to go to school.
In response, the Government has doubled funding to deal with truancy. This is good news if it’s spent wisely, but will pretty much be a waste of money if it doesn’t seek to find out why school isn’t working for so many young people. A punitive approach focussed on penalising families of truant students would be bad news.
I am in the middle of a project which involves asking students why they like or dislike school. It includes students at alternative course because their perspective is particularly illuminating. If school hasn’t worked for them what are the problems?
No one so far has said they don’t care about learning or don’t want to learn. They have raised some challenging issues for teachers, parents and academics. They have told me that they want more diverse teaching methods, more participatory learning and more respect for their cultures.
The high school-age students have told me school needs to be relevant to their world and teachers and students need to have quality relationships.
The issue of quality relationships has also been named by education academics as a key factor in effective teaching.
If the Government chooses to ignore this and focus on fines and punishment it does so at its peril. Do what we have always done only more so and we will get what we have always got, including creating more alienated families whose kids hate school.
Many families living in poverty with no secure housing risk alienation from the education system because their living conditions are stressed and unstable before the children even start primary school.
As for National Standards, many people want a trial. The Greens want more than a trial, we want a serious explanantion of how it will benefit those young people who have voted with their feet!