LOCAL business people will be encouraged to refuse service to school students unable to produce a valid leave pass as part of a new initiative designed to improve school attendance.
The initiative, ‘You need the student pass’, was launched in Ulladulla this week.
It will be expanded into Milton, Mollymook and surrounding townships over the next few weeks.
‘You need the student pass’ is a joint initiative of the Department of Education and Communities, local schools, Shoalhaven City Council, Wandarma Local Aboriginal Educational Consultative Group, New South Wales Police and the Shoalhaven Business Chamber.
Ulladulla High School is encouraging local business owners to support the program by asking students to show their school leave pass before serving them during school hours.
“Students leaving the school grounds without parental permission and approval from the school are truanting,” Relieving Principal Barry Christiansen said this week.
“School truants put their safety and well-being at risk by being away from a safe learning environment.”
Truanting can also have long-term consequences.
“It is important for all students to remain at school,” Mr Christiansen said.
“When patterns of poor attendance emerge they can have long-term implications for a student, making it more difficult for them to maintain and build on their learning.
“Poor education outcomes may affect such things as employment and their ability to support their own children’s learning.”
According to Mr Christiansen, there are many cases where students are legitimately in the community during school hours.
School leave passes are issued by the school when the student have parental permission to be out of school during normal school hours for essential appointments such as going to the dentist.
The school acknowledges that in a “small number of cases” students leave the school grounds without permission.
Police from the Shoalhaven Local Area Command have thrown their support ‘You need the student pass’ and will be working with Department of Education officers and local school staff to promote the initiative.
They will also be talking to local retail business operators over the next few weeks.
Participation by businesses is on a voluntary basis, however retail stores are encouraged to get behind the initiative by simply placing the ‘You need the student pass’ poster on display in their outlets and to ask students to prove a school leave pass.
As reported in the Times earlier this year, there have been numerous complaints in recent months about students loitering in the CBD during school hours, drinking, smoking, swearing and harassing shoppers.
Principal Tracy Provest told the Times in March that it was only a small group of students involved – about 10 out of a school population of 1250.
She said Ulladulla High School took the issue of attendance and responsible student behaviour “very seriously”.