Ballymun Whitehall School Attendance Community Action Initiative
In 2008 Ballymun Whitehall Area Partnership led a working group from across the community to develop a community action initiative to improve school attendance levels in Ballymun. The very first meeting was attended by 48 individuals, representing 31 stakeholder organisations. The working group included representatives of schools in the area and a wide range of other community / voluntary and statutory agencies working in Ballymun, all of which accepted that school attendance was a shared problem which required a collaborative response.
The working group agreed a set of seven actions and lead agencies and partner organisations were assigned for each action, based on the most suitable skills and resource matches. Actions included
- A community awareness campaign
- In-school attendance promotion
- Consultation with young people
- Guidelines for parents on school absence arising from common childhood illnesses
The results so far clearly demonstrate that this initiative is working. Below is just some of the evidence of what has been achieved after two years of the initiative:
- More children in Ballymun are attending school more often. This trend is likely to continue in the years to come, with the supports in place, as the increases have not yet levelled off.
- Children in Ballymun are attending school more often than their counterparts in other disadvantaged areas. This reflects very positively on the achievements of the initiative over a two year timeframe.
- There has been significant improvement in Traveller girls’ attendance rates from year 1 to year 2 of the initiative.
- Year on year comparison shows that the 20+ day absence poor attendance rate, decreased from a baseline of 30.5% prior to the initiative to 26.6% following the first year of the initiative and then to 24.7% following the second year of the initiative.
- Less children are falling into the poor attendance category and the initiative is likely to continue to decrease this in the years to come, with the supports in place, as the decreases have not yet levelled off.
- Poor attendance rates in Ballymun after two years of the initiative are almost comparable with the rate for other disadvantaged schools (24.7% compared with 24.3%), having previously been far in excess of other disadvantaged schools (the baseline figure for Ballymun prior to the initiative was 30.5%).
- The poor attendance rate for Traveller boys has reduced considerably over the past two years from a very high base of 58.3% of Traveller boys missing more than 20 days to 34.9% in year 2 of the initiative.
Here’s what the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs had to say about the Ballymun Whitehall School Attendance Community Action Initiative:
“I am most impressed with the materials provided to support your goals. Complex messages, simply delivered can have an enormous impact. Pulling together communities for the good of the children is central to all our activities. You describe it as a whole town working together... together you are bringing lasting change”.
And Principal, Mary Scanlan, of Virgin Mary Girls NS states:
“We will always be grateful to the Ballymun Whitehall Area Partnership for acknowledging and creating support for a very immediate need in schools in Ballymun. They knew that we believed that regular attendance and punctuality are a prerequisite for student achievement and vital preparation for adult life... Their work with heightening awareness among parents and creating an appropriate accountability and protocol for reporting is admirable.
But it is the work done inculcating a strong regular school attendance ethic among the general school population as a whole and the empowerment of children to monitor and look to their own school attendance that is reaping and will continue to reap benefits in the future.”