Welfare payment cuts

The notion of cutting welfare payments to force children to attend school is an unsophisticated response to a fairly complex challenge.

It is a strategy that operates from some flawed assumptions.

At its core it assumes the cause of ‘absenteeism’ resides with parents and community. This is usually not the case. In most cases the cause of absenteeism is more likely to reside within the school gate, where teacher/student relationships are neither positive nor productive, and where classrooms can be so uninspiring that young people are either bored out of their head, and see no point in the type of learning experiences being offered.

The strategy assumes most parents in the nominated communities do not want their children actively engaged in schools. This is simply not the case. On every occasion that I visited parents to discuss their child’s absenteeism there were no parents that indicated they wanted no part of school. They often discussed things at the school that could be different, and many even signalled that whilst they wanted to see them in school they felt powerless to get them there and actively engaged.

The strategy assumes that classrooms are a great place to be for the entire school day and that teachers are exciting, interesting and nice people to be around. Clearly this is not always the case, and is signalled absolutely by a child’s desire to be elsewhere.

Many educators find it easy to articulate the dysfunctionality that exists in communities as the cause of absenteeism, readily citing cases of domestic violence, child abuse and alcoholism. If this truly is the case, then why the hell can’t schools compete with that environment? If this is true, then surely we as educators in schools can offer a better and more stimulating environment, even if it is only for 6 hours in the day.

On reflection I can think of only 2 occasions when such an approach might have been worth entertaining. What is required by all of us here is less pointing the finger away from ourselves and shifting the blame elsewhere, and more hard work and honesty about our own role in this complex challenge.

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4 Responses

  1. In response to the blog from Chris – I have to agree that this is a much more complex issue – than operating from a ‘big stick’ approach towards parents. Schools are still operating bogged down in systems and building that are way behind the times – and although there are good/great intentions from teachers it is very difficult to operate within these environments. We must go into communities and find out why these problems exist, so that we can assist parents/caregivers to get their children to school. My concern if it is believed that this type of approach is definitely going to work – then let’s enforce it across the whole state (just to be equitable!)

  2. I agree Chris. I believe that –

    * the cuts to parent’s payments penalises people who are already in poverty.
    * simply turning up to school isn’t guaranteed that he’s getting a good education – this is a complete fallacy on the part of policy makers – my eldest son has been regularly dis-engaged from high school – bored & simply following directions with no excited or impassioned learning going on at all – due to uninspired & discipline based teaching. But I’m slowly getting used to ‘speaking up’ at my kids school – basically I’m realising its my job to say something when my son is not interested. I can’t imagine spending hours and hours per day bored & unresponsive with no avenue out.

    Luckily my most recent trip to the office was positively received & I’m hoping will result in some effective changes. (I think it helps that our inner-Brisbane school is very small)

    Keep up the great work Chris (and welcome to the blogging world)

  3. I agree that the financial attack on Indigenous households cannot address educational problems. Again, another policy built on popular assumptions rather than empirical research.

    Congrats on the $16 million mate. I am sure you will provide a very strong program. I think the use of positive principals is a great strategy.

    Take care.

  4. I don’t know If I said it already but …Excellent site, keep up the good work. I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read..Jim Bean

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