Over the past week IEBA has conducted a survey to get an understanding of expectations for the return to boarding by Indigenous students in 2022. Overall the results showed that the majority were expecting no change or an increase in Indigenous students returning. However, 45% of the schools and residences respondents with high numbers of Indigenous students are expecting a reduction in enrolments with 36% expecting a significant decrease.

Regarding financial expectations in 2022, some income reduction is expected by a third of the schools and residences with lower Indigenous student enrolments but most are expecting no change. It is a different story for those schools and residences with higher Indigenous student enrolments. Over 80% are expecting to be impacted financially (45% some income reduction – 36% significant income reduction).

Schools and residences with higher Indigenous student enrolments also have higher expectation regarding vaccination 54% (36% Yes 18% Likely) compared to 35% overall.

The major issues identified in regards to students returning are parental, student and family concerns regarding COVID. Transportation also rated highly for schools with lower numbers of Indigenous students (45% compared to 9%) whilst vaccinations concerns rated highly with schools with higher numbers of Indigenous enrolments (45% compared to 25%).

When students are returning to school is also an issues with schools and residences reporting that 42% expected their students back on time and 33% saying most will be on time. There were only 5% saying students wouldn’t return on time and 5% unknown.

In regards to comments made, common issues are COVID health directions & support with remarks such as, Better guidelines for Boarding schools regarding COVID, currently the schools are pretty much being left to come up with their own plans and Clearer Public Health directives regarding boarding students in a residential – still unknown Current directive is that everyone in a boarding house is a close contact – is this definition remains boarding is untenable and financial concerns with comments such as Same as last time: funding students who would have returned, some RAT kits would be amazing at no or limited cost for students and financial support in traveling to communities to take learning to our students, abstudy support for isolation of remote students in hotel quarantine style accommodation (w supervisor).

Whilst COVID is a major challenge with a great deal of uncertainty, the overwhelming majority of schools and residences have a COVID plan (45%) or are working on one (45%). AS one school commented:
We need to have the students back. They have had 2 disrupted years of education and it becomes more difficult the longer they are away.

It is the schools and residences with higher Indigenous student enrolments that are expecting the greatest impact in 2022. As one school said We are one of a few Colleges we over 100 indigenous enrolments. The context and complexity of abiding by the Covid regulations make opening boarding extremely challenging. We cannot simply drive students home if they become unwell.

There were 55 respondents to the survey, which is about a third of the total boarding schools and residences with Indigenous students. You can see the overall survey results dashboard at SurveyMonkey.