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It takes a village to raise a child, and ensuring students get to school five days a week is something the whole community can encourage and benefit from.

As part of the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys Try for 5! program, presentations engaging the wider school community are helping identify and tackle attendance barriers faced by many parents.

Cowboys program ambassador Matt Bowen was invited to attend a parent workshop at Wulguru State School, where parents of children involved in the program came along to an informal morning tea to talk about challenges in getting their kids to school.

The event was an opportunity to bring parents, students and teachers together in a supportive setting, where attendance improvement measures have had varying levels of success.  

Wulguru State School is part of the interschool Try for 5! Aon Challenge, competing with program schools Heatley State School and Townsville West State School to see which school will take out the ‘best attendance’ title in 2021.

Wulguru State School deputy principal and program coordinator Toni Wilson said establishing positive communication channels with parents is key to supporting the Try for 5! program which also rewards students for their improved attendance.

“We want to take away any excuses or remove those barriers and hear from the parents themselves about what the hard things are,” she said.

“Parenting’s hard, and sometimes they’re not always going to get it right but we’re all in there together - we’ve had the same problems with our own kids.

“We’re a big family here, a close-knit community and we always say it’s the Wulguru family, and I think when the parents were talking that’s what came through from them as well.”

A variety of issues was raised by parents, ranging from late-night use of devices at home making it difficult to get students moving in the morning, to being unable to send students to school without the proper uniform or lunch.

Concerns over transport and physically getting students through the front gates were also raised.

The open conversation allowed the group to normalise challenges experienced within the family unit and provide ways to overcome them.

Key strategies discussed at the meeting will help families develop a more consistent routine or to keep open communication with the school, who could then lend a helping hand using the Try for 5! program.

Overall, Toni said the meeting yielded extremely positive results.

“I think that communication and those partnerships with the parents and outside community, along with the Cowboys, is helping tie it all together,” she said.

“It’s really important, especially on that informal level, to just sit around and have a chat and a cuppa.

“The yarning circle we ended up having wasn’t planned, we were just going to mingle but people were standing around and the opportunity came from that, so it was good that the parents then got to put forward their point of view.”

During his visit, Matt Bowen also took the opportunity to help hand out individual Try for 5! prizes to students at their school assembly.