Education Matters

Greetings and welcome to yet another edition of Education Matters. This simple column provides readers with the opportunity to obtain an answer or insight into issues relating to Education and Learning. Especially, those matters that raise concern and anxiety for parents and children.

As the academic year slowly draws to a close, invariably it leads to a time that generates so many fond memories of childhood excitement and athleticism. Yes that’s it, the School Sports Carnival! Who could possibly forget the Team Factions, usually drawn along the colours of green, red, blue and yellow. At my school, our Team Factions were also given the names of glorious trees that grew in our State namely: Tuart, Jarrah, Banksia and Wattle. The highlight of the day was always the “Parent’s Race”. Didn’t that humble event bring out the best and at times the absolute worst in adults in a very public setting while their children looked on breathlessly savouring every moment? Ah, a day on the school calendar that continues to provide such laughter, some tears and an endless display of grazed knees!

The letter selected for this edition comes from Carol of Canggu.

“Hi Dr. Leith, thanks for the great advice. My husband and I really look forward to reading your column in The Bali Advertiser. I have a rather difficult issue for you, so I hope you can help. For some time my thirteen year old son has been very resistant to go to school and when we finally do get him into the car and drop him at school, he waits till we’re gone and then he runs off! It’s got to the point where we dread the phone ringing in the morning because we know it’s going to be the school asking us where he is? We have sat him down many times asking him what’s wrong at school? He just clams up and won’t say anything or just mumbles that everything is OK and that he’ll stop running away from school. But Dr. Leith, it’s not OK this has been going on for some weeks now! I can’t understand why he doesn’t want to go to school anymore, especially when he used to love going before. What do you suggest we do?”

Thanks for the letter Carol. Certainly, truancy is a challenging behaviour that can be created by a number of factors namely:

  1. Your child is being subject to bullying by another student/s.
  2. Your child is having difficulty succeeding in his prescribed classroom tasks and is fearful of failure.
  3. Your child has a specific Learning Need that is impacting on his level of comprehension and completion of assigned classroom tasks.
  4. Your child does not like a particular teacher.
  5. Your child has a serious socialisation skill deficit.
  6. Your child seeks to use truancy as a means to manipulate you and your husband for his own gain.

While this list presents some of the more obvious reasons as to why your child does not want attend school, it is by no means exhaustive. Some of the more complex reasons that I encounter and with an alarming frequency, in fact centre on Parental Needs rather than those of the child. For example:

  • The Parent/s may have previously suffered the loss of a child/children and are unable to let their remaining child out of their sight.
  • The Parent/s seeks the approval of the child and thereby facilitates truancy.
  • The Parents are having serious relationship issues and rely on the child to stay at home and “keep the peace”.
  • The Parent/s put the child to work at home in order to complete domestic duties.
  • The Parent/s are threatened by the child’s level of knowledge and are fearful the child will learn more at school and in turn undermind their authority in the home.
  • The Parent/s simply do not value Education.

As you can see Truancy is indeed a complicated issue and one that can be driven by a number of motivations and agendas. However, the key to unlocking the reason/s behind this action always has been and always will be, honest and transparent communication by all individuals involved, especially the parent/s.

Furthermore, truancy must be dealt with immediately and effectively, it simply cannot be given the opportunity to flourish. When your child is absent from school, they are missing out on so much and I am not just talking about academic prowess. The child cannot possibly develop critical socialization and self awareness skills if they are removed or withdrawn from their peers. This is one of the prominent drawbacks of one to one Home School and an issue that I am happy to discuss at length in another column.

An aspect often overlooked in this matter is the role of your child’s Classroom Teacher. Usually, this individual is experienced, highly trained and last, but by no means least, compassionate. They are in the unique position of being one of the most influential adult figures in your child’s entire life. So make an appointment and talk to your child’s teacher, find out what is really going on! A true but scary fact, in most cases your child spends more time with their Classroom Teacher than you do with your child.

Finally, my homily for this edition of Education Matters is:

“Real Education should consist of drawing the goodness and the best of our students. What better books can there be than the book of humanity?”


Dr. Leith is a qualified Primary, Secondary and Special Education Teacher. Has a Master’s Degree in Cognitive Stimulation using Music as a Therapy, A Ph.D in Education Evaluating how Special Education Classroom Teachers Manage Challenging Behaviour. Has lectured and conducted Post Doctoral Research at The School of Psychology and Human Development at The Institute of Education, London University. Has presented his findings on Dyslexia to a Select Committee in the UK House of Commons. Is a member of the Editoral Board of The International Journal of Inclusive Education.

If you have a question that you would like to put to Dr. Leith, send an email to:

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