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NT plan to lift falling school attendance

The Northern Territory will change the way it educates students in a bid to reverse plummeting attendance rates and get kids back in the classroom.

The NT Education Engagement Strategy 2022-2031 outlines a new plan for engaging students to help improve their learning outcomes.

“Too many of our children and young people are not fully engaged in their education,” Education Minister Lauren Moss said in a strategy overview document released on Tuesday.

“They are attending school sporadically or not at all. This is particularly the case for many Aboriginal children.”

Ms Moss said the territory’s education system was failing many children and young people, particularly those living in remote communities and on homelands.

According to the Association of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages in the NT, just 14 per cent of very remote Indigenous students attended school four days a week in 2020, and numbers are likely to have fallen further in 2021.

The new strategy sets out a path for families and educators to work together to teach Indigenous children in a bilingual curriculum that reflects their culture using more Aboriginal teachers.

A range of urgent actions have been identified across four key areas, including establishing regional Aboriginal education advisory groups, providing better cultural and language training for school staff and giving more jobs to local community members.

The strategy will also provide resources to improve student wellbeing, including more school counsellors and partnerships with Aboriginal health organisations.

“Our approach focuses on strengthening relationships with families and communities, embedding culture and first languages in teaching and learning, building our Aboriginal workforce in schools and better supporting the wellbeing of our kids,” Ms Moss said.

“We need every child attending school every day.”

To make this happen the Gunner government will invest $10 million over the next three years.

The release of the new strategy follows ATESOL NT’s criticism of NT education policy.

The group said the policy was failing remote Indigenous students because it ignored the 80 per cent of remote students that speak one of the dozens of Indigenous languages and dialects spoken in the NT.

It said falling budgets and a lack of pathways to secondary schooling options were widening the gap, not closing it.

Less than four per cent of year nine remote Indigenous students met minimum writing standards in 2019, according to ATESOL NT.

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