Lake Macquarie schools send clear message on attendance

Wiripaang and Windale public schools have enjoyed outstanding growth in attendance. Sven Wright reports.

Students and teachers pose with a certificate. Students and teachers pose with a certificate.
Image: Wiripaang Public School's Class of Barabaibaan were the winners of the garden competition design award.

Students and families of two small Lake Macquarie schools are sending the message that Every Day Matters loud and clear with big lifts in attendance.

Wiripaang Public School and Windale Public School are in low socio-economic areas and have high Aboriginal enrolments.

Wiripaang had the highest growth in student attendance of any NSW public school between 2019 and 2023. Last year the school met its daily attendance target and by the end of Term 1 this year it was 5.2% above the target. Its current attendance rate of 89.7% is 2.2% above the state average.

Windale’s attendance has grown 6.4% since this time last year to 88.7%, 3.1% above its attendance target.

The schools have used similar initiatives and individual programs to achieve their results, but they are all personal to families, a constant throughout each school day and week, and multi-facetted.

The approaches include communication with parents about individual and general attendance through as many means as possible, including face-to-face, phone calls, social media, newsletters and P&C meetings.

Windale Public School principal Craig Atkins said staff are involved in promoting and sharing attendance information every day.

“We emphasise the importance of daily attendance in every way we can, as often as we can,” he said.

“It’s all rolled up in our HERO attendance initiative – Here Everyday Ready On Time – a simple message but one that resonates with children and parents alike.

“We take a positive and proactive approach when engaging with our families to develop high expectation relationships and provide support to them daily in whatever way, shape or form we can.

“From the moment families arrive at the front gate there we are, welcoming and reinforcing the benefit of students being back for another day of learning.”

Wiripaang Public School principal Julie Low also greets families at the front gate daily, while her deputy principal greets students and parents at the back gate.

“As with so many things, it’s all about relationships to build trust,” she said.

“The greeting, the daily social media posts, the half-term whole-school attendance update, the phone call if a child’s absent, the home visits we might do, the discreet support with uniforms or lunches, they all add up to a personal connection that creates a high expectation in our community, and that’s the key to a lift in attendance across the school.”

  • Every day matters
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