Community Involvement in Rural and Regional Schooling and Student Retention

Year: 2016

Author: Watson, Jane, Wright, Suzie, Allen, Jeanne, Hay, Ian, Cranston, Neil, Beswick, Kim

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Student retention in school until the successful completion of Year 12 is an acknowledged challenge in many parts of Australia, particularly rural and regional areas (e.g., Alloway & Dalley-Trim, 2009). This is concerning, given the compelling evidence that the completion of school to Year 12 has long term positive economic and social consequences for the individual students and their communities (OECD, 2013). The research reported here focuses on community involvement in rural and regional schooling and student retention. The qualitative data were collected as part of a three-year ARC Linkage study of issues associated with completion of school education to Year 12 in rural, regional and disadvantaged parts of Tasmania. In-depth interviews (≥ 45 minutes) were conducted with 11 rural and regional community leaders across Tasmania. A descriptive account of the 20 themes covered by the interviewees in relation to school retention was reported in Watson et al. (2015). This paper reports on two other aspects of the research: the type of involvement of the organisation that the interviewees represented and the motivation for the involvement that took place. A two-dimensional framework (Sanders, 2001) was used to classify the 108 activities in which the 11 participants reported being involved. One dimension documented the type of organisation that the participant represented: local/national government, consultancies/boards, and non-profit groups. The second dimension focused on the type of activity in which participants were involved: student-centred, family-centred, school-centred, and community-centred. The range of specific activities was broad, as was the range of reasons that motivated the involvement. Apart from Gregoric’s (2013) work in South Australia, this study reports the only other known data about community involvement with schools in Australia reported by the community members themselves. The outcomes of the research provide benchmarks for other studies in similar Australian or international rural and regional communities where student retention is an issue.Alloway, N., & Dalley-Trim, L. (2009). ‘High and dry’ in rural Australia: obstacles to students’ aspirations and expectations. Rural Society, 19(1), 49-59.Gregoric, C. (2013). School-community involvement. Adelaide, SA: UNESCO-APNIEVE Australia.OECD. (2013). Education at a glance: OECD indicators. Available from, M. (2001). The role of “community” in comprehensive school, family, and community partnership programs. The Elementary School Journal, 102(1), 19-34.Watson, J., et al. (2015). Listening to the community on student retention. In M. Baguley (Ed.), Annual Conference of the Australian Association for Research in Education, Perth, WA.