Public school attendance has plunged across WA as the COVID pandemic continues to impact kids’ education, new figures have revealed.
According to the Education Department’s annual report, released on Wednesday, the proportion of kids who made it to the classroom often enough to be counted in the regular attendance category dropped to 63.3 last year, down from 70.2 per cent in 2020.
At the same time, the categories for three different levels of educational risk for non-attendance expanded by thousands of children.
Students considered as being at severe risk because they attended less than 60 per cent of the time surged from 4.6 to 5.2 per cent.
Aboriginal students were five times as likely to be at severe risk, with 27.3 per cent — or more than 7000 children — falling into that category.
The dire figures have prompted a department crackdown on students skipping school.
“We have learnt a lot throughout the pandemic and now, as we learn to live with COVID, there are some areas that need our attention — one of the most pressing is attendance,” Education Department director-general Lisa Rodgers wrote in the report’s foreword.
“Restrictions around isolation and illness have directly impacted student attendance and indeed will continue to do so.
“We have also seen an impact on student mental health, well-being and achievement. We are focused on addressing these issues.”
The annual report does not include attendance data from this year, which is likely to be far worse because of the impact of opening WA’s borders to the virus in March.
And the comparison data from 2020 does not count the last three weeks of Term 1, which were disrupted by COVID lockdowns.
Attendance is considered “regular” if children go to school between 90 and 100 per cent of the time.
The percentage of Aboriginal children who attended regularly also fell, from 33.5 in 2020 to 29.4 last year.
Kids considered at slight risk because they were marked present 80-90 per cent of the time grew from 17.1 to 22 per cent, while those at moderate risk because they were at school only 60-80 per cent of the time rose from 8 to 9.5 per cent.