Child and Youth Advocate offers recommendations to government to address the issue
When the same seats remain empty in the classroom for long periods of time — and there are vague reasons why the students who are suppose to occupy those seats are not showing up for school — a collective strategy is required to get those students back to their studies, a new report states.
The Office of the Child and Youth Advocate in the province released a report Thursday that found Newfoundland and Labrador is not effectively addressing chronic student absenteeism.
“Many children and youth in Newfoundland and Labrador are routinely absent from school without excuse or reason,” Child and Youth Advocate Jacqueline Lake Kavanagh wrote in the report.
“Once they become disconnected from school, it can be hard to reverse. These children often lose their social connections, they drop behind in the curriculum, they miss opportunities to participate in school activities, and eventually they may disappear from school completely. There is a long list of root causes for these absences. Although this is not a new issue, it is a very troubling one which affects students across all grades and can have lasting impacts throughout their lives.”
Kavanagh said her review shows how children who are absent from school have needs that require responses from many different government services, not just schools.
“We must stop defining this solely as a school problem,” she said. “The issue truly demands a comprehensive approach that also involves the Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development, the Department of Health and Community Services, and the regional health authorities.”
The report notes that chronic absenteeism is defined as unexcused school absences resulting in a student missing at least 10 per cent of the school year, or 18 days.
It also found that Canada has no systematic approach to collecting data, and information is incomplete on provincial/territorial government websites.
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