Profile of an Inter-Sectoral Issue: Children Not In...

The issue of children attending school irregularly or dropping out , Jenny Gold explains in Profile of an Inter-Sectoral Issue: Children Not In School, is a growing concern to teachers, school administrators, social workers, parents, and the children themselves. It is absolutely vital, Gold contends, that this problem be approached by all interested sectors—Education, Social Services, Health, as well as municipal and First Nations governments—acting cooperatively to both determine the causes of children not in school and develop and implement remedies.

Gold assembles available data in a number of demographic categories to create both citywide and neighbourhood profiles of children not in school. These profiles are broken down into the various factors believed to contribute to whether children stay in school. Some influences are family stability, parental involvement in the child’s education, friendships, family income, housing and neighbourhood quality, recreational activities, health determinants (nutrition, physical activity, mental activity), teacher quality, and school environment. Information related to these factors was used to construct several maps and graphs to better illustrate concentrations of certain problems within neighbourhoods that increased the likelihood of children not in school.

Gold supplements this data with a series of interviews with relevant stakeholders involved in the topic. After speaking with students, teachers, and administrators, Gold summarized the dominant views of why children choose to leave school early or attend irregularly. The most frequently mentioned reason was an unstable home life, which might include being shuffled between foster homes, lacking a meaningful bond with an adult, or parental disinterest in education. Problems with drugs or criminal behaviour, and learning or other disabilities also contribute to children leaving school.

Most stakeholders agree that the chief obstacle to keeping these at-risk children in school is insufficient resources. This results in a scarcity of teachers and counselors for the number of children who need attention and inaccessible services for these children and their families. Inadequate collaboration between interested sectors further compounds this problem. At-risk children need to feel secure in the classroom, meaning that smaller class sizes and close personal support from teachers is crucial. Mentoring programs outside of school would be greatly beneficial. A positive relationship with an adult has been found to be more valuable than that with other children when it comes to keeping at-risk children in school, as adults provide more stability and beneficial advice. From a wider perspective, more sectors in the community must take greater responsibility for children to offset the overwhelming pressures of contemporary society and schools’ insufficient resources . In general, a greater, earlier, and more diverse interest in the health and security of vulnerable children is required.

Gold, Jenny. (2004). Profile of an Inter-Sectoral Issue: Children Not In School. Saskatoon: Community-University Institute for Social Research.