School truancy rates on rise
School truancy rates on rise

More than 9300 of WA's public school students are deemed to be at "severe risk" because they attend school less than 60 per cent of the time - a problem that Education Minister Peter Collier concedes is "chronic".

A Budget estimates committee was told yesterday that 3.6 per cent of the State's 256,937 public students fell into the Education Department's severe risk attendance category last year.

Department figures show the highest number of at-risk students was in the Kimberley, where 23.1 per cent of students attended school less than 60 per cent of the time.

In the Pilbara, 9.7 per cent of students were considered at severe risk and the figure was 9 per cent in the Mid West.

The number of students attending school less than 60 per cent of the time has risen by more than 2200 since 2011, but the department attributes the rise to pre-primary being included in attendance data for the first time last year.

Mr Collier said improving attendance rates was "not going to get easier" and the department was dealing with an increasing number of disengaged students who "simply don't want to be at school".

He said the Government had increased the number of psychologists and chaplains in schools because many of the students' issues started at home.

"In anyone's language, to say that you've got 9000 students that regularly don't attend school, it's unacceptable," Mr Collier said.

"But it's been that figure for a number of times and as I said, we have got to get to the point where we acknowledge that it is not just the usual suspects - it's broad."

Shadow education minister Sue Ellery said 9348 students was "not a good number by any measure" and she questioned why it had not improved in recent years.

"When a problem like that is chronic, it seems to me we really do need to look at solutions outside the box," Ms Ellery said.

Education Department director-general Sharyn O'Neill told the hearing that while the department worked with other agencies and had attendance strategies in place, there was always a group of students whose attendance rate was difficult to improve.

Ms O'Neill said they were often students with "multi-layered issues" in their life.

"Schooling makes up only part of the solution and, of course with attendance, particularly with younger students, the family and the support environment that surrounds them is very important," she said.

The West Australian

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