Retailers will refuse to serve unaccompanied children during school hours and parents will be educated on the importance of regular schooling under a new strategy aimed at improving student attendance in Karratha.
The Karratha Attendance Strategy, a plan from the Pilbara Regional Education Office and Karratha police to address low rates of school attendance in the town, was launched last Thursday.
The strategy will also involve more regular communication between educators, police and Karratha City Shopping Centre retailers and a local advertising campaign promoting the benefits of education.
Regular school attendance, meaning attending 90 per cent or more of the time, in Karratha stands at 59 per cent — 13 per cent below the State average.
Pilbara Regional Education executive director Cheryl Parkin said regular school attendance rates in Karratha “have remained relatively low for a period of time” and “a number of students” were in the severe at-risk attendance category.
“The attendance data indicates that there is still much work to be done to ensure more students attend school regularly,” she said.
“While schools are able to provide many levels of support, it is ultimately the parent’s responsibility to ensure their child attends school. For this reason, the Karratha Attendance Strategy will prioritise ensuring parents are aware of their responsibility to ensure this occurs.”
She said issues contributing to low attendance included holiday absences and a lack of parental support for ensuring regular attendance.
Pilbara District Police Inspector Neville Dockery said keeping children in school was a key way to reduce juvenile offending in the community.
“Youth crime happens in every community in every district, and we know that it’s those kids that have the propensity to offend who also struggle to do well in education,” he said. “There are a whole lot social factors behind it, so reducing daytime offending is contingent on getting kids in school.”
The strategy so far only applies to retailers in the Karratha City Shopping Centre, but proponents plan to expand to its reach to other Karratha shops in the near future.
Karratha City Shopping Centre manager Melanie Garbin said children skipping school often spent time at the centre and its shop owners supported the strategy.
“They would like to see a reduction in anti-social behaviour, but there’s always a reason for it — there’s a background behind the person that commits the anti-social behaviour,” she said.
“What we’ll do to help is partner with the police and community groups and go from there, which is a good stepping stone for us.”
“If we get to the root of the problems, then we can help.”
The new strategy comes after similar school attendance strategies were launched in other Pilbara towns including Roebourne and Port Hedland at the start of this year.