Dis/engagement in secondary schools: Toward truancy prevention

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Bruce J

This report presents the findings of a research project investigating the factors which lead to dis/engagement in secondary schooling for young people with a history of truancy. In 2013, Te Ora Hou Ōtautahi (a South Island Attendance Service provider) commissioned this research in order to better understand the complexities of factors leading to dis/engagement of young people in secondary schools. Data was collected and analysed from a range of sources including interviews with young people, whānau, and experienced practitioners working in the field of truancy and attendance; as well as published research. This approach to data collection is consistent with the model of Evidence-Based Practice which acknowledges the critical voice of young people in informing practice, in addition to other sources. A Model of Youth Development through Education is suggested here which draws together key themes from the findings of this research, along with existing research in the field. The model draws upon youth development research, and suggests that practitioners and schools need to be cognisant of a range of complex issues facing dis/engaged young people, and these may be grouped in to the following two categories: o Relational factors affecting dis/engagement in schooling (with a focus upon friendships and belonging, relationships with teachers, personal challenges including learning difficulties and/or stress, whānau challenges, and wider school support) o Learning factors affecting dis/engagement in schooling (with a focus on getting help with learning / learning difficulties, choice/autonomy, and pedagogical variation in the classroom). In many instances these factors are inter-connected. For example, where there are significant relational challenges, the need for learning support is likely to increase. Furthermore, in nearly all contexts, young people became disengaged in schooling because there were a number of challenging factors impacting upon their ability to connect, both within and outside of school. Not surprisingly then, this research found that effective practitioners recognised the need to work in collaborative, multi-systemic ways to support young people toward engagement. Consequently, the findings of this research indicate that there are a range of implications for practitioners and policy including the need to develop more robust approaches which incorporate: i. Culturally relevant practice, with a focus on Māori and Pasifika ii. Effective communication with families/whānau iii. Relating to young people iv. Collaborative, multi-agency practice v. Informed practice, with a focus on understanding the impact of stress on learning, and the importance of mental wellbeing for young people, and vi. Early intervention Policy implications were raised by practitioners around two of the themes: (1) the need for early intervention as in many cases disengaged young people present with difficulties in primary and intermediate school years, and; (2) the need for increased policy direction around more effective collaborative, multi-agency work. Further research and professional development in these areas may enhance the opportunities for young people to engage in education further. The findings from this research are published in a resource for practitioners titled: Positive Youth Development through Education: Addressing Issues of (Dis)Engagement in Aotearoa / New Zealand Schools.

Bruce J (2014). Dis/engagement in secondary schools: Toward truancy prevention. Te Ora Hou Aotearoa. 48pp-.
Ngā upoko tukutuku/Māori subject headings
ANZSRC fields of research
Fields of Research::39 - Education::3904 - Specialist studies in education::390403 - Educational administration, management and leadership
Fields of Research::45 - Indigenous studies::4508 - Mātauranga Māori (Māori education)::450808 - Te mātauranga kura tuarua Māori (Māori secondary education)
Fields of Research::45 - Indigenous studies::4508 - Mātauranga Māori (Māori education)::450809 - Te whai wāhi ākonga me ngā mahi whakaako o te Māori (Māori student engagement and teaching)
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