Working with Diverse and Vulnerable Students

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 essential that school communities understand the diversity of their students and families and provide a positive and welcoming environment for all. Research shows that positive and inclusive school environments lead to better academic results, increased confidence and better attendance at school.

Students requiring additional support

Schools should ensure they address and celebrate diversity when developing their attendance promotion, recording, monitoring and follow-up procedures for all students.

Schools should be particularly mindful of students and families who may require additional support. This includes:

  • Koorie students
  • students in Out-of-Home Care
  • students with disabilities
  • LGBTI students
  • overseas (international) students
  • students from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds
  • students with refugee backgrounds
  • students whose parents have a significant illness or who act as carers/interpreters.

Diversity should be acknowledged and sensitively considered, but should not compromise the expectation of a student’s full attendance at school.

Individual students needs

Early identification of student disengagement is important to minimise future school absences and to reduce the impact on the student’s educational attainment and social and emotional wellbeing.

Attendance improvement strategies will vary according to a student’s circumstances, health, age, education level, learning needs and aspirations. For instance, at a senior secondary level, attendance improvement strategies should focus on supporting young people to complete their secondary certificate or accredited VET, with the view to linking them into their preferred pathway of further education, training or employment.

Strategies and interventions should be consistent with other supports and frameworks in place for the student and family, such as students in out-of-home care and Aboriginal families. Schools should take care to only implement one improvement strategy at a time. 

For example, if an Attendance Improvement Plan has been developed, avoid initiating further actions until the actions and timelines outlined in the plan have been completed and evaluated, and if patterns of attendance remain a concern.

Referrals to community agencies and services may be appropriate and can occur in conjunction with school and home based attendance improvement strategies.

Referral to wellbeing services

When exploring attendance concerns, schools may identify behavioural, health or social issues such as anxiety, depression or bullying for an individual student. Schools should access specialist support available in the school, provided by the school sector or appropriate government and community agencies.

For government schools this includes:

Engaging services or making referrals to services could be a strategy to improve attendance and to address emotional and social needs in order to improve attendance, especially in circumstances where students are:

  • experiencing homelessness
  • involved in the youth justice system
  • experiencing mental or physical health issues
  • from newly arrived or refugee backgrounds.

Referral to Child FIRST

Prolonged absence from school, patterns of absence from school, or the lack of parental support for a child’s attendance at school may raise concerns about cumulative harm to a child, or concerns that the child and their family need the assistance of family services.

In addressing and following up school attendance issues, schools may need to consider whether they should report a concern to Child Protection or make a referral to the Child FIRST intake service for referral to family services.

For more information, see: How to make a referral to Child FIRST

Re-engagement programs

Re-engagement programs provide an opportunity for disengaged or at-risk children and young people to achieve positive education and wellbeing outcomes.

Re-engagement programs are only an appropriate option when:

  • school-based strategies to improve a student’s engagement in a mainstream school setting have not been successful
  • a child or young person is not enrolled in a school and faces significant barriers to returning to a mainstream school environment.

When determining if a re-engagement program is a suitable option for a child or young person, the primary consideration must be their educational and wellbeing needs.

For more information on referrals, see: Re-engagement program

Navigator Pilot Program

Disengaged young people who meet the eligibility criteria may also be referred directly to Navigator. For more information, see: Navigator Pilot Program

Catholic schools

Catholic schools should contact their relevant Diocesan Catholic Education Office Wellbeing personnel.  For more information, see: Dioceses

Print the Student Attendance guidelines

These pages have been developed from the 2014 School Attendance Guidelines. The guidelines support schools and School Attendance Officers to meet their responsibilities and duties under the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 and the Education and Training Reform Regulations 2017.

To download the guidelines in full, see: Attendance Guidelines