The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys and Johnathan Thurston have joined a campaign by the Palm Island community to improve school attendance in 2014.
Over the next two weeks, the NRL club and their co-captain will link with St Michael’s School and Bwgcolman Community School to ensure that all children on the island are enrolled and attending school.
“We want to kick the school year off with a real push to get families to enrol their kids in school and once enrolled, ensure their kids attend,” Thurston said.
“Closing the education gap for Indigenous kids starts at prep/grade 1 and establishing good attendance patterns as early as possible is essential.”
An ambassador for the Queensland Reconciliation Awards, Thurston has donated two of his own personally signed playing kits to each school and each child enrolling and attending each day will receive a ticket in a draw for the prizes.
“It was a huge honour to be nominated again by Premier Newman as an ambassador for the Reconciliation Awards and this is one way I can use that role to make a difference,” Thurston said.
“Education is the key to the future for all kids and for Indigenous kids it’s the key to closing the gap but for that key to work they have to go to school every day.
“As well as encouraging the kids to attend, I want to use projects like this to encourage all families and the broader community to take responsibility for good school attendance.”
In welcoming the initiative, Regional Director of Education, Training and Employment, Richard English, said: “It is very clear that student learning outcomes, particularly NAPLAN results, improve dramatically when students attend school regularly.
“In order to close the gap for Indigenous students’ results, every day of learning in every classroom is most important.
“Student learning outcomes improve as student attendance rates improve.
“The great thing about having Johnathan and the Cowboys involved is that they will help to get the school attendance message to whole families and the community more broadly and not just the kids.
“This support from the Cowboys, and particularly Johnathan, will link nicely with the employment of School Attendance Officers as part of the Federal Government’s new Remote School Attendance Strategy program.”
The prize winners will be drawn on 21 February.