Best Start, a program currently underway in Central Goldfields Shire, has had major success in recent times in reducing the level of student absenteeism at the Maryborough Education Centre (MEC).
The success has resulted from a couple of initiatives. One, titled "It's not OK to be Away", involves retailers in Maryborough displaying signs in their stores reminding students they should be in school and not in the street. This initiative has seen a 50% reduction in absences amongst consistently absent Prep - Grade 6 students over the period of one school semester.
Principal of the MEC Barney Healy said the results are outstanding and the work by Best Start should be applauded.
"Best start has worked with all of the primary schools in the shire and also the wider community to combat a significant issue and they have had great success," Mr Healy said.
Best Start facilitator Marg Kent says "The schools have put in place some really effective ways of encouraging children to attend school. The breakfast program at MEC is part of their strategy, but together, all the schools have done a fantastic job using a range of approaches," said Ms Kent.
Ms Kent went on to say that one of the important things to come out of effort has been the realisation that working together can achieve amazing outcomes. "An almost 50% reduction in absences amongst consistently absent students is a remarkable result in anyone's language," said Ms Kent
"The participation from local people and businesses has been crucial to its success. Children in schools around the shire know that shopkeepers may not serve them if they go shopping instead of attending school. The traders' involvement sends a very powerful message to children and families that our community values education as a way of setting children up for the best possible start to their adult life," said Ms Kent.
Ms Kent said that the best way for people to help out with this part of the Best Start work is to help spread the word within their family and friends that it's not okay for children to be away from school. Anyone with any questions about the Best Start program can contact Marg at Community Services at Maryborough District Health Service on 5461 0400.
Central Goldfields Shire Mayor Chris Meddows-Taylor said, "The success of the schools in improving school attendance speaks volumes about what we can achieve when we all work together."Media contact: Mark Johnston, CEO, Central Goldfields Shire Council, 03 5461 0610