Public purpose partnerships can achieve far better results on policy problems than when a single entity goes it alone. How might partnerships tackle the problem of school truancy? Whose problem is it? Teachers? Parents? Police?

At IPAA’s breakout session Creating public value at this year’s BiiG Network conference, Professor Lorraine Mazerolle shared lessons on the ingredients for successful partnerships from the Ability School Engagement Partnership (ASEP) Project designed to reduce absence from school by young people in Queensland.

What is the ASEP Project?

The ASEP Project uses innovative, procedurally just dialogue, which has been rigorously developed and tested and is grounded in the theory of Third Party Policing. The approach is designed to increase students’ school attendance by communicating attendance laws to students and parents in a procedurally fair way. The dialogue will take place through an ASEP Conference – a partnership between the student, their parent/carer, a school representative, and a Queensland Police Service representative. Other participants, such as interpreters or health professionals, will be included as required.

ASEP Conferences are facilitated by an objective third party. The conference results in an individually tailored Action Plan that includes specific actions and commitments for all conference attendees, with a two-month monitoring period to help ensure increased attendance.

Who participates?

The ASEP Project’s target young people are those enrolled in a random selection of state high schools in Queensland who:

  • are between the ages of 12 and 16 years;
  • have 15% or more unexplained absences over each of the previous two school terms,
  • have no known legitimate explanation for absences, and
  • have at least one responsible adult in their lives who provides social and/or financial support.

In schools that agree to participate, young people who meet these criteria and are eligible for invitation to participate in the ASEP Project are identified and confirmed by the local school Principal. The Department of Education (DoE) then refer the young person to the ASEP Project (UQ and ROA). The Project Facilitators then approach the young person and their family/carer to outline the project and invite participation. Participation in this project is voluntary, and participants can withdraw at any time without penalty.

How is the project evaluated?

The ASEP Program uses an experimental design with a randomised control group to measure the effectiveness of the program’s conference in increasing school attendance. The young person, their families and other participants in the conference contribute to understanding the journey and impacts of participating in the project through surveys, involvement in the conference, and commitment to an Action Plan.

What are the outcomes?

The outcomes anticipated for schools and young people who participate in the ASEP Project include:

  • increased school attendance,
  • increased knowledge of school attendance laws for students and parents, and
  • better relationships and more meaningful connections between students, parents, schools and police.

Additionally, in the longer-term:

  • the student may experience better life outcomes across a broad range of measures such as reduced risk of welfare dependence, reduced risk of delinquency, enhanced employment opportunities etc.,
  • the school may achieve sustained increased school attendance,
  • the project may understand the efficacy of the ASEP model and of the potential for it to be more widely adopted for the betterment of students and schools.

Hear Lorraine speak about the power of partnerships through the ASEP project.