Attendance and missing school

​It’s the law that children 6 to 17 years old go to school or be home schooled. You’re legally responsible for making sure your child goes to school every day.

For an Easy English version of this topic, see:

Why going to school is important

Going to school every day is the single most important part of your child’s education. Students learn new things at school every day. Attending and participating in school will help your child develop:

  • important skills and knowledge to help them learn
  • social and emotional skills such as good communication, resilience and team work.

Children who attend school every day and complete year 12 have:

  • better health
  • better job opportunities
  • higher income across their lives.

There is no safe number of days for missing school. Each day a student misses puts them behind.

What to do if your child can’t go to school

Let the school know as soon as possible and explain why you child can’t come to school. Each school will have a preferred way to do this. It may be by phone call, email or app.

If you do not let the school know, they must contact you on the same day to make sure your child is safe. They may also call your emergency contacts.

Talk to your school if your child needs to take an extended period of time off. There might be flexible options to keep your child from falling behind.

If your child misses a lot of school

​​Your school will work with you if your child has more than five days of unapproved or unexplained days off in a school year.

If this does not work, your school might refer your child to a school attendance officer. The school attendance officer will monitor and investigate your child’s attendance. You might receive a warning, an attendance notice or a fine.

Example situations


If your child is sick they do not need to go to school. It’s important they’re only away on the days they’re genuinely sick. Your school might give them work to do so they don’t fall behind.

Medical appointments

Make medical appointments for before or after school or during the school holidays. If this is not possible, tell your child’s school before the appointment.

Family holidays

Take holidays during school holidays and not during term time. Your school will decide if it is okay for your child to miss any school for a holiday. They might give your child work to do so their learning is not affected. If they do not approve the holiday and you decide to go, you might receive a warning or a fine.

A death in the family

Contact the school and let them know how long your child will be away. The school can offer counselling and keep an eye on your child’s wellbeing when they return. For Sorry Business absences, find more information under Koorie Cultural Absences (including Sorry Business).

Koorie Cultural Absences (including Sorry Business)

For families of Koorie students, we encourage you to let the school know when there is Sorry Business. Teachers can work with you, your child and the Koorie Engagement Support Officer to identify the right support. The school will record the absence in a specific category for Sorry Business. The category accounts for the unique responsibilities that come with this type of absence.

Culture plays an important role in a Koorie student's education and overall well-being. If a Koorie student needs to be away for a cultural activity or obligation, families are encouraged to discuss this with the school in advance. In some cases, these absences can be recorded under the 'educational' absence category. 

For more information, see: Missing School for Cultural Reasons – Information for Koorie families (pdf - 76.33kb)


This is when your child chooses to not go to school without you knowing or giving permission. Your school can help you improve your child’s attendance at school.

Children who refuse to go to school

Your child might refuse to go to school. This is different to truancy. Your child may be upset at school or the thought of going to school.

This could be because of:

  • bullying
  • feeling lonely or not having friends
  • felling behind in work or poor grades
  • they don’t like their subjects, teachers or other students
  • illness or mental health
  • disability
  • behaviour or development delays
  • bad sleep habits
  • learning at home is not encouraged
  • relationship breakdowns
  • hobbies or family commitments
  • cultural differences between home and school.

It can be normal for children to go through a stage where they refuse to go to school.

It’s important to find out why they don’t want to go to school. Speak to them about what’s happening. Then work with them and the school to find solutions. You can speak to your child’s year coordinator, school counsellor or principal.

Students with a disability

If your child has a disability they might not have to attend school full time. This will depend on the type of disability your child has and if it is the best thing for your child.

Contact the disability coordinator at your nearest regional office to talk about the options for your child.

Tips to help improve your child’s attendance

  • Talk to your child about school and how important it is. You can ask them how they feel about school, what they liked and if there are any problems.
  • Reward good behaviour and not bad behaviour. For example, if your child refuses to go to school, do not let them have access to their phones or the internet
  • Set a good example. Show them how you keep to your own commitments.
  • Encourage your child to take on hobbies that your child enjoys such as sports and clubs. This will help them develop positive relationships outside of the classroom
  • have a set time to do homework and go to bed.
  • leave all technology out of their bedroom
  • pack their school bag the night before with everything they need
  • have a set time for breakfast
  • plan to meet up with a friend so they can travel to school together.

Get advice

Speak to your school if you have concerns about your child’s attendance or behaviour.

You can also read the attendance information given to schools and attendance officers.