The head of one of Queensland’s most remote indigenous schools is calling for a restructure of school holidays to keep children in school.
Venitta King, head of the Northern Peninsula Area State College’s senior campus, wants to expand school holidays in the middle of the year and shorten the summer break.
The move would allow indigenous families to travel during the dry season and still get their children to school for most of the year.
Ms King says school attendance in the region drops when the roads dry up after the rains, and families use that time to leave the community.
It means children can miss two weeks of school at a time, leaving them behind academically when they return.
“School attendance is always an issue here,” she told AAP.
“Families do not like travelling on aeroplanes, so when the road is opened it does affect our attendance.”
School attendance at the NPA College hovers around 60 to 70 per cent, higher than many other remote indigenous communities.
But special events like festivals can lead to a downward spiral of attendance and children need intensive support when they return, Ms King told AAP.
“It’s very challenging depending on how long they’ve been away,” she said.
Ms King wants to see the June/July holidays extended to four weeks and a cut of two weeks from the long summer break when the wet season makes travelling on the roads impossible.
“The kids are already in the community in the summer, waiting to go back to school,” she said.
“I think it’s worth trialling because a chunk of our attendance problems is around that time.”
The Northern Territory government implemented a similar change in the 1970s, giving students a four week break in the middle of the year and one-week breaks between the other terms.
However, the NT government is considering changing the breaks back to two weeks each term to keep them inline with the rest of Australia and Asian neighbours.
Public consultations on the changes concluded last year but a decision is yet to be announced.