Attendance wins in Windsor

Students are reaping the rewards in more ways than one with significantly improved attendance at Windsor High School.

Image: Windsor High School students celebrate ‘Zooper Dooper’ attendance.

Students at Windsor High School on Dharug Land and across the Hawkesbury have faced many challenges over the last few years; bushfires, multiple floods and COVID-19 have all made getting to school regularly a challenge.

With an acute awareness of the importance of every day at school, staff are working together to ensure student attendance improves.

‘Whatever your attendance is, it needs to improve,’ is the message all students at Windsor High School hear regularly. Staff have one common goal for students - boosting attendance so they get the most out of school.

“We’ve been working on improving attendance constantly, but after lockdown, we found that students just weren’t keen to return to school. That, combined with the unique context of our school, has given us some challenges when it comes to attendance, but we are making really solid progress,” said Principal, Jennifer Hawken.

“Our kids are amazing. They all have so much potential and our goal is to help them reach it. Regular attendance at school plays a key role in this, hence our hard work in this space."

The approach comes down to a few key points; ensuring students know they are wanted and cared for at school, celebrating attendance success regularly and making students and the school community aware of the importance of attendance.

“We’ve been placing a strong focus on wellbeing at school. We know students perform better and attend school more regularly when they have a strong sense of wellbeing, so spending time fostering a positive environment where kids want to come has been really impactful so far," Ms Hawken said.

“Some of our wellbeing-focused approaches include breakfast provisions, R U OK? Day celebrations to encourage open conversations about mental health, student mentoring programs and ‘Wellbeing Week’ where we show our students how vital wellbeing is in their school life."

Regular celebrations that range from whole-school ice block treats or a BBQ lunch for the year group with the best attendance improvement, to recognition awards at assembly, have proven incredibly popular.

“It’s been really fun for our students to have something to look forward to that recognises the effort they’re making with their attendance. Our kids are so engaged that we have students approach us to ask about their individual attendance improvement, and they’re always really proud when we tell them there’s been an improvement.” Ms Hawken said.

Deputy Principal, Ashlea Khalid has been leading the attendance work with Ms Hawken and is encouraged by the way students and the wider community have embraced its importance.

“We are taking a step-by-step approach with a focus on steady, long-term progress of attendance for our students. No matter their current attendance rate, we want to see an improvement, and all wins are celebrated,” Ms Khalid said.

“We’ve had really nice interest from the community in the form of donating prizes for our students, and we will continue communication with parents and carers over time to educate them on the importance of every single day of school.”

With 17 per cent of students at Windsor High School identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, cultural safety and connection have proven effective in encouraging attendance.

“We have a full-time Aboriginal Education Officer who works one-on-one with students to ensure they feel supported and connected to their culture and country, and we work to incorporate First Nations culture in all that we do at Windsor High School,” Ms Hawken said.

Overall, the school’s success can be attributed to strategic goals and constant effort by staff and students alike.

The results speak for themselves: In only a matter of months, attendance has improved across Windsor High School by more than 6 per cent.

And it’s only the beginning.

“I am so proud of our school. We have amazing staff with us, beautiful students and a wonderful community. I am so pleased with the progress we’ve already made and I’m really excited to see how we continue to thrive in this space,” Ms Hawken said.

  • Every day matters
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