South Perth MLA John McGrath has held the fourth of a series of community safety forums in an attempt to address problems arising from truancy.
Mr McGrath said he became aware late last year that truancy had become a growing problem at some schools. He then decided to meet with community leaders to seek a solution.
The meetings have been attended by representatives of the City of South Perth, Department of Education and Training, Como Secondary College, Clontarf Aboriginal College, Southcare, Kengsington Police and residents.
“We even had three students from Como Secondary Colllege,” Mr McGrath said. “I wanted to ask them why they thought some students truanted and what we could do to encourage stronger attendance.
“The problem with truancy is that when kids don’t go to school there is always the tendency for them to get into trouble and become involved in anti-social behaviour. The other issue is that they then get behind in their learning. Problems with literacy and numeracy can be linked to non-attendance.”
Mr McGrath raised the issue of truancy with the minister for Education and Training during Budget Estimates in State Parliament this week.
Mr McGrath said it was a pity that the department kept no centralised data on truancy. However, statistics provided to him by the Minister revealed that non-attendance at secondary schools in Western Australia had gone up from 11% in 2005 to 13% in 2007 while non-attendance at primary schools had increased from 7% in 2005 to 8% in 2007.
Mr McGrath said school principals and teachers were given little or no support in the fight against truancy.
He asked Education minister Mark McGowan: What support do schools receive from the district from the district and central offices to prosecute parents who allow their children to truant? And, is there any record of parents being prosecuted, bearing in mind that it is against the law not to send children to school?
Mr McGrath believes the Department might have to look at bringing back truant officers.
“There is no doubt that the Government should be providing schools with greater resources to address this problem,” he said.
Mr McGrath said the successful Ed-Ventures program was doing a lot of very good work to encourage students to attend schools in the South-East Metro Region but most of their work was with primary school children.
Mr McGrath said the meetings, held in his electorate office, had also discussed a number of ways of reducing crime and anti-social behaviour in the district, including the installation of CCTV.