Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Nova Scotia Tightens School Attendance Rules amid Growing Absenteeism

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Nova Scotia Tightens School Attendance Rules amid Growing Absenteeism

Article excerpt

Nova Scotia tightens school absentee rules

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HALIFAX - Nova Scotia has announced a new policy allowing high school teachers to fail students who miss one fifth of their classes, in an widening effort to combat absenteeism.

The Liberal government announced the measures Wednesday, saying more than 29,000 students out 118,000 are absent more than 16 days a year of school.

Education Minister Zach Churchill said he's hoping a mixture of more early intervention and stronger consequences will start reversing those figures.

"We think this will put more kids in our classrooms," he told reporters in Halifax.

The new 20 per cent threshold has some flexibility, particularly in circumstances such as illness, a department spokeswoman added later.

The attendance policy is based on recommendations from the Council to Improve Classroom Conditions the Liberals set up following labour strife with the teachers' union earlier this year.

During the labour dispute, teachers testified before a legislature committee that they often had little ability to penalize students who didn't turn up. The union said its members were feeling pressure not to fail students.

Churchill said the government's new policy begins Oct. 1 and will result in students being marked absent unless "they are attending an activity that directly relates to their learning, or a school activity."

Teachers are also expected to come up with approaches to address absenteeism in "early and targeted interventions" for children in elementary and middle schools, said the minister.

Students in Grades 10 to 12 could lose their credit if they exceed the 20 per cent benchmark. That's 37 days of a regular school year.

Michael Cosgrove, a Halifax high school teacher who is a member of the classroom council, said teachers have been noticing a drop off in attendance in recent years.

However, he said since word of the policy has been circulating, more students are coming to classes at his school.

"We've been in school for three weeks and I've been noticing a difference," he said. …

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