Separate but Together: Teachers’ perceptions of the impact of Family Occupational Separation on students’ educational outcomes

Year: 2016

Author: Louth, Sharon, Jamieson-Proctor, Romina, Black, Trevor, Martin, David

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The Separate but Together Program investigated the impact of occupational separation as a result of ‘live here, work there’ (LHWT) employment on the educational outcomes of children living in these families. The LHWT phenomenon has expanded rapidly across Australia to meet industry employee demands and many thousands of children in urban, regional and rural Australia are now living in occupationally separated families. Some regions such as the Fraser Coast are actively using LHWT as an economic and social development strategy. Schools in the Fraser Coast District were invited to take part in the research where the LHWT lifestyle is prominent. This paper reports on one aspect of the study, namely teachers’ perceptions of the LHWT phenomenon and if it effected their students’ learning outcomes. This element of the study employed a quantitative approach by using surveys to collect data from 115 teachers in two schools in the Fraser Coast district. The survey that was created specifically for the study provided a statistically valid and reliable measure of teacher concern for LHWT students. Analysis of the data revealed there were four particular concerns teachers have about students living in LHWT families, specifically attendance, socialisation, speech and language development, and ability to communicate with adults. Further study is needed to investigate the impact of these concerns on children’s education outcomes and how any potential negative impacts can be mitigated. It is an intention of the research project to guide the development of strategies to maximise the educational outcomes of school students and promote the overall wellbeing of children and families, and assist communities (both home and work communities) to adapt to the LHWT lifestyle. The results of the project will form the basis for possible interventions to enhance the outcomes for children (and families) experiencing separation due to work commitments. The application of such strategies will create widespread and on-going benefits for all stakeholders - children, families, schools, regions and Australia.