Could this be the answer to student retention?

Could this be the answer to student retention?
A report by the Mitchell Institute shows that 40% of the nation’s poorest 19-year-olds leave school early, compared with about 10% of the wealthiest.

Some organisations, such as Save Our Schools, have pointed to the imbalance in school funding as a key contributor to the increasing trend of student disengagement from learning while others blame a lack of learning options for students.

To shed more light on this issue, the University of Queensland conducted a landmark study to examine the retention of students and the expanding growth of ‘second chance schooling’ for students who have left mainstream schools.

The Engaging Students in Engaging Schools: lessons from Queensland’s alternative education sector report explored how non-mainstream schools attempt to meet the needs of students who have disengaged from mainstream education.

UQ’s Head of School, Professor Martin Mills, visited eight Flexible Learning Centres across Queensland. These facilities cater for students who have left mainstream education and require support to help them re-engage with their learning.

During this time in these facilities, Mills noticed a significant improvement in school retention and engagement among the students enrolled at these facilities and suggested that education leaders take note.

“There are several reasons why student disengagement from mainstream education occurs, but they tend to fall into three interrelated categories,” Mills told The Educator.

“The first relates to out of school factors, such as caring responsibilities for younger siblings, their own children or parents; a home life that is shaped by severe disadvantage, lack of money for food, buses etc.; homelessness and engagement with the youth justice system.”

Secondly, says Mills are in-school factors, such as inflexible rules and processes that do not take into account out-of-school factors.

“These include curriculum and teaching practices that appear to have little relevance to their lives; bullying; being lost in the size of the school; falling behind with school work; lack of voice in school,” he said.

“Thirdly are broader social issues like racism, homophobia, poverty, and gender issues.”

Below, Mills shares some important considerations for principals who are striving to improve the retention and engagement of their students but might be struggling.
  • ‘Clearing the path for learning’ – making sure that those factors that prevent students from attending school are dressed through the school’s own practices e.g. through the provision of food, having access to youth services for those young people who find themselves homeless or are caught up in the youth justice system;
  • Understanding that for many of these young people actually getting to school in the morning is a major achievement given their home lives and building flexibility into school practices that recognises this;
  • Ensuring that the curriculum and approaches to teaching are made meaningful to the students, without providing them with a second rate curriculum;
  • Starting every day as a new day;
  • Ensuring that the school environment is one where difference and diversity is respected and valued;
  • Being an advocate for the young person.

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Govt announces initiative to keep students in school
Why students leave mainstream schools