Taree Public has the scoop on keeping students focused

The school is getting sweet results from its attendance drive, as Kerrie O’Connor reports.

A little girl holding an ice-cream. A little girl holding an ice-cream.
Image: Mia Dodsworth met her attendance goals and enjoyed an end-of-term ice cream at Mrs Murray’s coveted store.

Mrs Murray’s Ice-cream Shop opens just once a term, but it sure has the scoop on keeping youngsters focused.

All term, Taree Public School students are tantalised by Principal Di Murray’s much-publicised promise: two scoops of ice-cream with sprinkles and toppings for those who beat their attendance goals.

It’s a rare treat in the school’s attendance-boosting toolkit - and the results are sweet.

In the 12 months from 2022 to 2023, the number of students attending school more than 90 per cent of the time increased, from 22 per cent to 45 per cent.

“We are so proud of those results and that Taree Public School is a welcoming place where students feel they belong and where they want to learn,” Mrs Murray said.

The attendance rush is not all down to sugar. The school has plenty of slow-release strategies right throughout term, including phone calls home whenever a student is absent and regular colour-coded letters showing how a student’s attendance compares to their peers.

Then there is the quicksilver idea borrowed from Hillvue Public School: a giant playground ‘attendance thermometer’.

As the ‘mercury; rises with the school’s collective attendance, students literally and figuratively rally around it and encourage each other to do even better.

The whole school then waits with great anticipation to learn who has won the fortnightly assembly gift voucher. A single name is drawn from all those who have met their attendance goals.

Mrs Murray said the school is a great place to be and staff swing behind families needing support.

The attendance drive remains front and centre in the school newsletter and on social media. Across the first term of 2024, the school has seen 47.4 per cent of students attending more than 90 per cent of the time.

Taree Public School is part of the NSW Department of Education’s Connected Communities Strategy, which puts culture and community at the centre of schooling.

A group of students standing in front of a large thermometer on the wall. A group of students standing in front of a large thermometer on the wall.
Image: As the 'mercury' rises in the playground attendance 'thermometer', the whole school celebrates.
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