Improving school attendance is “everybody’s business” according to Townview State School’s head of wellbeing, Laura Gavin, with the school working hard to engage parents and community groups to promote the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys' Try for 5! program message in Mount Isa.
Taking part in the Try for 5! program for their 4th consecutive year, supported by the Australian Government and Regional Express (REX), Townview’s recent Under-8’s Day was a shining example of how the prep to year 6 school is working far beyond the classroom to get students through their school gates.
Visiting Townview for the event was North Queensland Gold Stars captain and program ambassador Romy Teitzel, whose profile and influence attracted not only star-struck students, but the rugby league loving community of Mount Isa.
“Our students definitely thrive on any opportunity to get out on the field with professional footballers, and we find Cowboys visits are something our parents engage with too,” Ms Gavin said.
“We’ve got really good families here, but I do understand some of our families may have had bad experiences with education and there might be a bit of resistance in coming to school or engaging with staff, so tying it in with the Cowboys is big for us.
“Under-8s Day promotes all our kids coming to school who are under 8, we get the kindergarten involved as well, and it’s just a really good opportunity to bring parents in, bring outside agencies like police and firies in and get everyone together to celebrate.
“I think to see a female footballer out here is amazing for them, but even just for our girls who maybe aren’t into sport, having that female empowerment is so important for them in seeing what’s possible.”
Students enjoyed a range of activities for Under-8s Day celebrations including an obstacle course, painting, arts and crafts and a treasure hunt, with the kindy’s involvement introducing and getting kids used to the school environment from a young age.
Visits from the Queensland Police Service and Queensland Fire and Emergency Service helped familiarise and break down barriers between students and emergency services, while a game of touch footy with Romy encouraged the senior students to get involved too.
Try for 5! strives to immerse students and their families in the program message of “school every day”, with the whole of community approach aiming to remove difficult obstacles.
“Some of our older students do have a lot of responsibility within their family to get their younger siblings to school, which is really hard on them because sometimes they’re fighting with themselves to get to school,” Ms Gavin said.
“That’s incredible to do at the age of 12.
“Kids just need to know that school is a safe, fun place to be, and no matter what happens outside those gates we will welcome them in.
“Even if they had a bad day the day before, the next day is a fresh start, we don’t hold grudges so come in because we’re here to help you and support you and do what we can do.”
Students who attend school five days per week go into the running to win fortnightly prizes, with special family prizes and end of term prizes also up for grabs to provide further incentive.
Pancake Tuesday is also running at the school for the remainder of term 2, offering free breakfast to every student who attends school that day.
Staff at the school attend weekly attendance meetings to identify trends in data and individual students who need extra help and encouragement.
The Try for 5! program is partnering with 14 schools across North and Far North Queensland in 2022, addressing short and long term impacts of students missing foundation learning in their primary years through poor school attendance.