St George Research with ARACY

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MissingSchool is working with Australian Research Alliance for Children & Youth (ARACY), a national research organisation progressing and promoting evidence-based programs and strategies to improve the wellbeing of children and youth.

Background

Maintaining a strong link between a seriously ill child and their school community has positive impacts for a child, both while they are undergoing treatment and once they return to school.  These benefits cover all areas of a child’s wellbeing, including mental health, emotional wellbeing, social connectedness and academic performance.  This link is also vital for families and carers of the child, and particularly for siblings, who may require additional support from their school communities.

MissingSchool was launched in January 2013, with an immediate aim of reviewing the data available about the issues facing seriously ill children in participating in and continuing connection to their schools. An important goal is to explore international best practice, models and enabling technology for keeping seriously ill children connected to their school communities, learning and peers.  Additionally, MissingSchool plans to review State legislation in education, and related policy and practice in supporting seriously ill children.

MissingSchool, in partnership with ARACY, proposes to inform these objectives by researching and developing reports in three areas of evidence need:

Audit of ‘the metrics’: collate data and information from existing sources on the number of school-age children who experience prolonged and/or recurrent absence from school as a result of serious medical conditions (critical or chronic). This work will also involve identifying the critical and chronic medical conditions that lead to children being affected in this way, estimating the number of annual days absent from school for children in this circumstance and identifying any gaps in the data. This evidence can be used to promote the need for metrics to assist with education planning and delivery to affected children.

Review of Australian and international ‘best practice’, focusing on working models that capably support seriously ill children with continuing education connection, and also provide support for their siblings and families. It will also identify which elements of those models are most successful and transferable/replicable, and which are consistently found to lead to better academic, social and emotional outcomes for children in these circumstances. It is vital at this stage to disaggregate the evidence for each area of wellbeing, for example: which models and elements positively affect academic performance, which positively affect mental health of seriously ill children and which positively influence the transition back to and through school life.  This research will identify a framework for an ideal model of support, including recommendations for families, health practitioners, schools principals and teachers, and policymakers.  This will enable MissingSchool to support families and carers, policymakers, educators, health practitioners and program managers, and will guide funding of early intervention programs.

A review of current effort: looking at Australian State and Federal education legislation (including privacy, child protection, hospital schools, distance education, and cross-jurisdictional issues), policy, programs and practice, approaches in school leadership, current teacher training and individual school frameworks and accountability measures. This research will assist in identifying the gaps between what is currently happening and the model of ideal practice identified through the research on metrics and best practice (described above).  It will compare the current effort with the ‘ideal’ model and identify gaps in different jurisdictions and systems. This will assist MissingSchool to work with different education jurisdictions, teacher-education institutions and education sector professional associations and organisations (in collaboration with health practitioners) to adopt best practice approaches.

It is important to recognise that each of the above three areas of research upholds the others, and the results will lead to a coherent evidence picture to inform and direct early intervention and action.

MissingSchool expects the results of this research to be released in late 2014.