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When it comes to school attendance, the simplest fix is sometimes the best

There are many reasons why kids might struggle to do well at school.

Some students might have additional health and development needs that make it hard to keep up with their peers. Others experience trauma and mental health problems that distract from their education. Some kids just need a little extra support.

All children are entitled to the support they need to get a good education and the best start in life, and as a society we should take a holistic approach to providing that support.

But sometimes the reasons that kids can’t do well at school come down to the simplest things: like not being able to get to school.

Families often do it tough to send their children to school, hit with various costs of up to $3,489 per year for primary school and $5,170 for secondary.

For families facing disadvantage, the cost of public transport can be another major barrier to school attendance.

VCOSS has been calling on the State Government to commit to providing a free myki public transport pass to every schoolchild whose parent or guardian has a health care card.

The NSW Government has stepped up on this issue, providing kids with free travel on approved services during school term.

This stops students from missing out on school because they can’t afford to buy or top up their card, and saves them from accruing fines and all the associated anxiety.

As well as supporting children’s education, being able to get to school and after-school activities helps kids’ mental health and social skills development, making them feel like part of a community.

But don’t take our word for it; hear it from the kids.

Jake, a Year Nine student at Wyndham Central College, says “I was removed from my mum’s care and taken to my nan’s in Altona Meadows. My nan didn’t get any funding from the government or anyone to look after me, and she wouldn’t be able to afford to pay for a myki or to get me to school … In 2016 I didn’t go to school much due to the fact that I couldn’t get there.”

Jake asked his school to chip in for a myki, and “since getting the myki my attendance has skyrocketed and I’m really thankful for that.”

Students like Jake shouldn’t be in the position of having to ask for financial support to get to school. The Andrews Government has already acknowledged this by extending the schools-myki project in Melbourne’s western suburbs, which provides funding for 10 to 15 schools to offer free myki cards to students experiencing homelessness or family violence.

It’s time now to roll out state-wide free public transport for students who need it. All kids in Victoria should be able to get to school, wherever they live and whatever their families’ circumstances.

In the words of another schoolchild – it really is a no-brainer:

https://www.facebook.com/VCOSS/videos/2090623640960303/