Provincial Student Attendance and Engagement Policy Effective Oct. 1

Schools across the province now have a new student attendance and engagement policy to address the growing concern of student absenteeism.

The policy and a supporting operational plan were shared with the education system today, Sept. 20, and will take effect Oct. 1.

“The policy is intended to help improve student attendance through a balance of supports, incentives and consequences, without adding to the workload of teachers,” said Zach Churchill, Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development. “Any time a student misses class is a missed opportunity to learn. And with one-quarter of students missing 16 days or more of school in a year, we want to work with parents, students, teachers and the Council to Improve Classroom Conditions to get kids to class, so they can fully participate and engage in learning.”

The policy is designed to identify and address absenteeism before it becomes a problem for students through early and targeted interventions.

“I want to thank the members of the council for their efforts and leadership in developing this policy,” said Liette Doucet, president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union. “Teachers and administrators have been requesting clearer guidelines around attendance for some time, so I’m pleased this information is being released. We will carefully gauge the reaction from administrators, teachers, students and families as this policy is implemented over the coming weeks.”

Under the policy:
— students will be considered absent unless they are attending an activity that directly relates to their learning, or a school activity
— teachers will not be required to prepare additional materials or release test and exam information ahead of their release to the class
— Grade 10 to 12 students who miss more than 20 per cent of class time for a given course may lose a credit for that course based upon individual circumstance and the professional judgment of the teacher and principal
— addressing absenteeism or chronic lateness will vary based on the age, grade and the individual circumstances of the student.

The policy is based on advice from the Council to Improve Classroom Conditions.

“Attendance is an important issue for teachers. It’s something we value highly,” said Michael Cosgrove, teacher at Dartmouth High School and member of the Council to Improve Classroom Conditions. “Education is a debt that we owe the next generation. Our kids are missing too many days. Promoting attendance, putting interventions in place for students who are struggling, and having consequences, are things we can do to help improve student attendance.”

The minister also accepts council’s recommendation to create pilot projects where attendance support workers will work with families and students when attendance becomes a concern.

Teachers, parents and students are invited to provide feedback on the policy and its implementation throughout the year. The department will review the policy and adjust based on lessons learned and feedback received after the 2017-18 school year.