Ain’t no attendance high enough at Mount Riverview

A philosophy of why be good, when you can be great defines one school’s approach to lifting attendance, Olivia Grey reports.

Image: Supportive environment: Students at Mount Riverview Public School

A personalised approach has seen Mount Riverview Public School’s attendance levels go from good to great.

The Lower Blue Mountains school, located on Darug Country, has increased its overall attendance levels by 12.5 per cent.

While attendance levels were good to begin with, COVID-19 saw some students struggle to maintain regular attendance and hit the 90 per cent target set by the department.

Principal Elise Berwick said the key to the school’s attendance success had been a personalised, supportive approach for the students who needed it.

“Last year, we developed our new attendance procedures, which helped to fine tune our methods and strategies to boost our attendance,” Mrs Berwick said.

“We put in place a number of new strategies, including an automated SMS system that allows parents to easily explain non-attendance. This system alone has seen our unexplained absences reduce significantly, and has helped parents and staff keep track of student attendance.”

She said the result also reflected the work of Attendance Support Officer Justine Drew, who helped connect students and families with support measures that would assist in improving attendance.

“Justine’s assistance was invaluable; to have the expert knowledge of all available supports, and the best strategies to put in place was incredible and has helped set us up to continue bringing up our attendance,” Mrs Berwick said.

The individualised approach to attendance means the leadership team is constantly looking at attendance data to check for patterns or particular concerns for individual students. By knowing students on a personal level, the school is able to assist students and families in a more effective way.

“For us, the data is a tool. Our goal isn’t to improve our data, our goal is to use it to advocate for our kids. I love understanding what is going on with our students at a personal level, seeing their faces and really being aware of what we can do to best support them,” Mrs Berwick said.

The school’s focus on student wellbeing is at the helm of all they do. By working together to ensure that school is an enjoyable place to attend for students, staff have seen a shift in attendance and class participation.

Mrs Berwick, who is in her third year as principal at Mount Riverview, said she was lucky to have walked into a strong team environment.

“I’ve worked with our staff to strengthen team work even further, and encourage further communication to know what’s happening day to day in the classroom,” she said.

“Knowing what students need and how to best support them means that they want to come to school and that parents want them here.”

There are high expectations for students at Mount Riverview Public School; being a learner is one of the school’s core values, and being at school and on time plays a key role in effective learning.

“Every moment at school matters. The benefits of good attendance are immeasurable; from the academic benefits, to vital connections with peers and staff members, ensuring students are at school every day is key to developing good learners, and good kids overall,” Mrs Berwick said.

“Our school vision says ‘Students are at the heart of all we do’, and I’m really proud of the way our school implements this daily. We’re fortunate to have amazing staff and an incredibly supportive school community who all work together to ensure our school is the best place possible to attend and learn every day.”

  • Every day matters
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