Attendance Report Calls for Islandwide School Bus System
An attendance report obtained from the Ministry of Education through an Access to Information (ATI) request points to the fact that a significant number of schools have failed to meet the targets for attendance set out in the National Education Strategic Plan (NESP).
The report has, among other things, recommended the introduction of an islandwide school bus system to address issues of low attendance in schools.
The NESP outlines national attendance targets of 95 per cent for the primary level and 85 per cent for both the early-childhood and secondary levels.
An analysis of attendance rates for the academic year 2013-2014 obtained by The Gleaner indicates that 87.3 per cent of schools with infant departments did not meet the NESP target.
At the primary level, schools falling below the target stood at 80 per cent while at the secondary level 76 per cent of schools missed the target.
According to the data, attendance rates for regions 2, 4 and 6 fell below the national average at the early-childhood, primary and secondary levels.
National averages down
The national averages were 79.4 per cent, 86.3 per cent and 82.7 per cent for infant, primary and secondary schools, respectively.
The report indicates that in comparison to last year, the national attendance rate saw a decline at the primary and secondary levels, while there was no change at the early childhood level.
When compared by sex, the data shows that attendance rates for girls continues to be higher than for boys at all three levels.
At the early-childhood level, attendance for boys stood at 78.6 per cent and 80.2 per cent for girls.
Attendance rate for boys at the primary level was 85.4 per cent and 87.3 per cent for girls while at the secondary level, the figures were 81 per cent and 84.3 per cent for boys and girls respectively.
The data was also analysed by parish and revealed that Kingston had the highest daily attendance rates at all three levels.
Parishes with the lowest rates included St Mary, Westmoreland and Hanover.
According to the report, some of the reasons for low attendance include students being kept out of school on Fridays to provide support to the economic situation of the family, distance travelled by students to school, poor teaching/learning environment which impacts student's engagement, and financial difficulties experienced by parents.
The report went on to identify times when attendance is noticeably lower.
These included Thursdays and Fridays, days nearing the end of the term, beginning of January when parents are expected to pay unpaid auxiliary fees and for PATH beneficiaries the days when they are not being fed.