09 Jun. 2021

Improving Engagement and Attendance at Palmerston College

Like many Northern Territory Schools, Palmerston College has been working hard to improve engagement and attendance. Research has shown that that better engagement means better outcomes for students in the long term.

In 2021 the College has successfully reconnected with over 19 previously disengaged students. When reengaging students, staff focus on what barriers might be at play in preventing the student from engaging in school, and working to remove them so that the student can succeed.

The College Student Mentor works with a small group of disengaged students, building positive relationships and developing a safe, supportive and culturally inclusive environment to reengage young people in education and/or employment pathways, whilst providing support with assessments and classwork where required. In consultation with College leadership and teaching staff, support services, parents/family and external services, the Mentor operates within a coaching framework to create individualised programs to support the students

Every morning on the 7-9 Campus there is a Breakfast Club held before school in the Café where students can have a toasted sandwich with spaghetti, baked beans or cheese. This program is free for all students and is run before school begins. Students learn better when they are not hungry and this program has helped many students focus on their day ahead.

The College also implemented Fresh Start on the 7-9 Campus this year to provide targeted intervention supporting students with their literacy and reading skills. The program has grown from 30 Year 7 students to 50 students ranging from Year 7 to 9. This program identifies students through the use of TORCH and PAT data and provides a safe environment for them to work within their zone of proximal learning. We are seeing students increase in confidence and engaging positively in other classes.

The College also has a Flexible Learning Centre. The Flexible Learning team supports students with a wide range of specific needs, and provides targeted support with increased opportunity to experience a wide range of educational experiences tailored to students’ skills, needs and interests, across Years 7 to 12.

A major contributor to reengaging students and keeping them engaged is the partnership programs at the College, such as the Elders Program run by the Smith Family. The Elders Program is open to Indigenous students, where in separate sessions run for boys and girls they learn about culture, cooking, family, history, ceremony and many other things.

The Clontarf and Stars Foundation each run engagement activities such as the ever-popular Staff vs Students Football Match on Friday mornings, along with activities and camps to acknowledge high attenders, and activities with partners of the programs. Both Clontarf and Stars have an employment and career focus where they help students to gain insights into different careers, as well as study and training options for when they finish school.

Attending school everyday is important, and it is important that when students are at school they are motivated and inspired to learn, aiming for the successful future we know they can achieve.