Sick students being left behind…but technology can help

The report, conducted by the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY), found that students who missed extended periods of school suffered both socially and academically.

According to the research, as many as 60,000 Australian students experienced “significant absence” from school. However the report also found that schools lacked a cohesive mechanism to combat this issue.

The report’s authors recommended that schools and parents make greater use of technological innovations such as the video chat service Skype to ensure students remained engaged with their learning.

Missing School is an organisation helping bridge the educational and social needs of sick and injured children. Its co-founders, Megan Gilmour, Gina Meyers and Cathy Nell, said a “consistent framework” was needed to provide sufficient support to students who missed out on a quality education due to injury or illness.

"We need to give these kids what works, in a consistent framework," Gilmour said at Parliament House in Canberra yesterday.

"This is not about favours or a nice thing to do or charity, we want to see the state and territory education departments and schools take up their responsibility within a national agenda."

Peter West, director of e-learning at Queensland’s St Stephen’s College, told The Educator that online distance learning was crucial in addressing students who lived in rural areas or had been absent and needed to catch up on missed classes.

West’s Online Learning Environment (OLE) allows students to login and learn at a time, place and pace of their choosing, freeing up valuable time for teachers as well as busy parents.

“We want to give kids the opportunity to learn outside the classroom and even work ahead if they wanted to,” West said, adding that one of his Year 7 students was able to surge ahead in her computing studies after being granted access to Year 8 units in the same subject.

ARACY national program director, Penny Daikin, said the lack of reliable data had made the writing of the report difficult, with there being no official count of the number of students affected each year and little data about their experiences.

"There are gaps [in the report], we acknowledge that there are many gaps, not least of which being the fact that we don't know how many children we're talking about," Daikin told the ABC.

"We don't have a better understanding of the numbers — that speaks to the fact that there is more to be done."