In order to benefit academically, socially and physically from school, children and youth need to attend on a regular basis. While the relationship is probably not linear, it is fair to say that those students who do not attend school regularly are likely to fall behind their peers, with resulting negative effects on school completion, school achievement, and later life outcomes. The causes of low rates of attendance are, however, complex and multi-dimensional. In order to design and target policies that work in ensuring children do attend school, it is important to understand the factors that predict both high and low levels of attendance at an individual level.
There is an increasing policy focus on the school attendance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous) children with a new Closing the Gap target being implemented on the issue. However, these targets will not be met unless policies designed to achieve them are based on solid evidence that takes into account the agency and autonomy of the children and youth themselves, as well as the Indigenous-specific and other factors that influence attendance.
The aim of this paper and presentation is to develop and outline a behavioural model that explains patterns of attendance, with a particular focus on Indigenous children and youth. The model and policy implications that follow are based on a review of the existing qualitative and quantitative literature, as well as new analysis of four nationally representative datasets – the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS), the Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children (LSIC), the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) and the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY).
Dr Nicholas Biddle is a Fellow at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research.