Attendance

From Term 1 2017, Victorian government and Catholic schools will use the new Victorian Curriculum F-10. Curriculum related information is currently being reviewed and may be subject to change.

For more information on the curriculum, see:
The Victorian Curriculum F–10 - VCAA

It is your responsibility to ensure your child attends school every day. Learn about your responsibilites and what you can do to help your child's attendance.

Schooling is compulsory for children and young people aged from 6 -17 years.

School participation will help your child develop important skills, knowledge and values to further their learning and participation in the community.

Attending school every day also helps your child develop crucial social and emotional skills such as good communication, resilience and the ability to work in teams.

Children and young people who regularly attend school and complete Year 12 have better health outcomes, better employment outcomes, and higher incomes across their lives.

Your legal responsibilites

The laws apply to all parents of compulsory school-aged children attending any Victorian Government, Independent and Catholic Schools.

You are legally required to ensure your child attends school every day.

If your child misses school you must give an explanation for their absence unless permission has been already been granted.

The principal will then record the reason and decide if the absence meets your legal obligations.

You are encouraged to avoid planning holidays or making routine medical appointments during school time and where possible, you should inform the school in advance of upcoming absences.

For more information about legal requirements and attendance at school, see:  Victorian Attendance Legislation: FAQs for Parents

The school's responsibilities

In primary school, your child’s attendance must be recorded twice a day.

In secondary, attendance should be recorded in every class.

The reason for a child’s absence must be recorded in writing. Your child’s school will:

  • already have - or will develop - an attendance policy
  • monitor student attendance
  • notify you if your child has an unexplained absence as soon as practicable and continue to follow-up with you as practicable
  • create a safe and stimulating school environment
  • help you develop strategies to encourage your child to go to school
  • provide support for families.

How do I get my child to school every day?

It is important that your child develops regular attendance habits at an early age.

A child missing one day a fortnight will miss four weeks in a year, and more than a year of school by Year 10.

There are possibly going to be times when it is difficult to get your child to school. Daily routines, like packing school bags the night before, can help make mornings easier.

It is important you communicate with your child’s school if you are concerned about their attendance. To understand why your child may not want to attend school and tips on what you can do to ensure your child attends school each day, see: Factors affecting attendance

Why attendance is important

Primary school

Attendance patterns are established early - a child regularly missing days in kindergarten or in the early years of school will often continue to miss classes in the later years, and receive lower test scores than their classmates.

It’s vital that students go to school every day - even in the early years of primary school. To download a factsheet that you can read with your child, see: School is better when you are here - for primary school students

Secondary school

It’s never too late to improve attendance - going to school more often can lead to better outcomes. Even at Year 9, when attendance rates for all students are lowest, going to school more often can make a big difference.

Every day counts. Schools are there to help - if you’re having attendance issues with your child, speak to your school about ways to address those issues.

To download a factsheet that you can read with your child, see: School is better when you’re here - for secondary school students

My child needs to miss school - what can I do to help?

If your child must miss school for any reason, there are steps you can take to ensure they don’t fall behind:

  • speak with your classroom teacher or year level coordinator and find out what work your child needs to do to keep up
  • develop an absence learning plan with your school and ensure your child completes the plan.

Top attendance tips for parents

  • act early if you have concerns about your child's attendance and connectedness to school
  • there is no safe number of days for missing school – each day a student misses puts them behind, and can affect their educational outcomes and their social connectedness
  • talk positively about school and the importance of attending every day
  • open and prompt communication with your child’s school about all absences is a good idea
  • avoid making routine medical and dental appointments during the school day or planning family holidays during the term
  • help your child maintain daily routines such as finishing homework and getting a good night’s sleep
  • don’t let your child stay home unless genuinely sick. Complaints of headaches or stomach aches may be signs of anxiety
  • reward appropriate behaviour and don’t unintentionally reward unwanted behaviour by letting children who stay home have access to their devices and the internet
  • seek help from your school if you are concerned about your child’s attendance and wellbeing. Schools want to work in partnership with parents to support student attendance and wellbeing.

Ways to manage your child's absence

These examples may help you understand the correct way to manage an absence.

A death in Sarah's family

Sarah is in Grade 5. Her grandmother died over the weekend and the funeral is on Wednesday.

What should happen
On Monday morning, Sarah takes a note, (written by her father), to her teacher. The note explains why Sarah will not be at school on Wednesday. After reading the note, the teacher asks Sarah if she is okay and if she would like to talk to the school counsellor. Sarah says she is okay. The teacher believes the note is authentic and informs the principal who approves the absence. The principal asks the teacher to follow up with Sarah and her family in a week or two to see if they need any additional support.

What shouldn't happen
Sarah arrives at school on Monday looking a bit pale. She is not able to concentrate and is uncommunicative when her teacher asks her what is wrong. On Wednesday she doesn't turn up to school and is marked as absent without an excuse.

Tyson's family holiday

Tyson is a Year 9 student. Next week he is going on a family holiday to Japan for two months.

What should happen
A couple of months ago, Tyson's mum approached the school to discuss the holiday. After the principal approved the absence, Tyson's teachers provided Tyson's mother with an absence learning plan to ensure that he doesn't drop behind while on holiday. Tyson's family adapts the trip to include time for Tyson to do some school work. When Tyson returns he feels confident about fitting back into his school, knowing he is up to date with his classmates.

What shouldn't happen
A couple of days before they go away, Tyson's mum tells his home room teacher about the holiday. The teacher immediately informs the Year Level Coordinator who requests a meeting to discuss if this is feasible for Tyson. However there is no time to prepare an absence learning plan and when Tyson returns to school he has missed several units in all of his classes as well as numerous assessment tasks. In addition, the family may be financially penalised as numerous absences for which a reasonable excuse is not provided may lead to a fine.

Michelle's relatives are visiting

Michelle is in her first term as a prep. Her aunty has just arrived from Italy and is visiting for two weeks. Michelle's dad has said she can come to the airport to pick her up, even though it's a school day.

What should happen
Michelle's dad knows taking Michelle out of school is not a good idea, especially when it has taken Michelle a long time to settle in. Instead he picks up her aunty from the airport by himself. Then they both pick up Michelle at the end of the school day together.

What shouldn't happen
Michelle's dad decides to take Michelle out of school for the day. Michelle enjoys seeing her aunty, but feels anxious about attending school tomorrow. The principal requests a meeting with her dad to explain why this is not a reasonable excuse for missing school.

Harrison needs to go to the dentist

Harrison is a Year 11 student. He hasn't been to the dentist for a long time and his mum makes an appointment for a check-up on Tuesday morning. Harrison asks not to go back to school after the appointment because his friends have been teasing him. His mother says that's fine. She knows he's been having a hard time at school.

What should happen
Harrison's mum makes the appointment time after school. She tries to talk to him about why he doesn't like school. She makes an appointment with Year Level Coordinator or Wellbeing Coordinator to talk about her concerns. Together they come up with a plan to make school attendance easier for Harrison.

What shouldn't happen
Harrison's mum lets him take the rest of the day off. Harrison is relieved to get away from the teasing from his classmates and starts looking for more excuses to take days off. He gets behind in his work and the assessment tasks start to pile up. Very quickly, he is at risk of failing several Unit 2 subjects. Catching up on all of the SACs he has missed puts more pressure on him and Harrison starts to feel anxious and overwhelmed.

Ngello is behind in school work

Ngello has been struggling with learning English since his family arrived in Australia. His teacher reminds the class that their book report is due the next day. Ngello asks his parents if he can stay home just for the day so he can finish the book and write the report.

What should happen
Ngello's parents ask him to do the best job he can, but refuse to let him stay home. They send a note to school with Ngello, letting the teacher know Ngello is struggling and asking for a meeting about his studies. The teacher organises a meeting with Ngello and his parents to work out alternative tasks and extra assistance.

What shouldn't happen
Ngello's parents allow him to stay home, and even provide him with a note trying to excuse him. Ngello finishes his book report but misses out on watching the beginning of movie version of the book. The whole next week of lessons involve comparing and contrasting the movie and book, and Ngello feels even more isolated and is unable to complete the work.

Zoe often feels sick

Zoe, a Year 8 student, often feels sick in the morning. Sometimes she feels nauseous, sometimes she has a headache. Her parents try and encourage her to go to school but she is very reluctant and there are many mornings where she finds it hard to get up. She often goes to sick bay during the day and tries to get sent home.

What should happen
Zoe's parents are increasingly worried about her health and her connection to school. They take her to the GP to rule out any physical illness and contact the Year Level Coordinator to see if anything is happening at school. Together, Zoe, her parents and the Year Level Coordinator develop a plan to support her to be at school. This includes an Attendance Improvement Plan, conversations about Zoe's friendships and sleeping patterns and a referral to the school counsellor. With the extra support she gradually increases her attendance and starts to feel better about being at school.

What shouldn't happen
Although Zoe's parents encourage her to go to school, they figure that she's just going through a stage and that if they give her some time, she'll be okay. They let her stay home and whenever the sickbay attendant calls, one of them comes to pick her up. After a couple of months of poor attendance, Zoe feels even more disconnected from school and her peers and is further behind in her work. Even getting her up to school for a meeting with the Wellbeing Coordinator is really difficult and her parents feel lost about what to do next.

Home Schooling

The Education and Training Reform Act 2006 requires that all children of compulsory school age (6 to 17 years) are enrolled in a school, or registered for home schooling.

When you decide to educate your child from a home base, you assume overall responsibility for the planning, implementation and assessment of your child’s education.

If you wish to home school your child you must meet the requirements of the Victorian Regulation and Qualifications Authority, including attendance requirements.

For more information, see: Home Schooling

Exemptions

The Education and Training Reform Act 2006 and the Education and Training Reform Regulations 2017 allow exemptions from school attendance and enrolment to be granted in certain circumstances.

All applications for exemptions are considered on a case by case basis, and in accordance with the legislation, with the student's best interests as the guiding principle for decision-making.

In making a decision, the potential benefits or negative consequences of granting the exemption to the student's educational progress, wellbeing and development are also considered.

 

No exemption is required if a student is not of compulsory school age (6-17 years of age). A student must continue attending school until an exemption is granted. 

For more information on the exemption requirements and the process for applying for an exemption see: Exemption from School Attendance or Enrolment

Concern for a child not enrolled at school

If you know of a child who is of school age and appears not to be enrolled in school or registered for home school you can make a referral to a School Attendance Officer. In order to make enquiries, the School Attendance Officer will need to know:

  • the full name and date of birth of the child
  • the name and address of a parent responsible for that child’s school enrolment.

If you’d like to make a referral, see: Community Referral Form