This page includes information for school attendance officers on receiving a referral from a principal and issuing school attendance notices.
All department regional directors have been appointed as school attendance officers by the minister for education. This guidance only relates to regional directors in their roles as school attendance officers.
Ensuring referral form is complete
When a principal makes a referral to a school attendance officer, the form must be signed and state:
- that the absences have been repeated (including the dates)
- what measures to improve attendance have been tried or are unsuitable
- that no reasonable excuse has been provided.
If all this information is provided and the form has been signed by the principal, the school attendance officer should be satisfied with the information provided.
Principals should note that the school attendance officer may require further information in order to form reasonable grounds for their decision. If the form is incomplete, it should be returned to the school with a request for more information. The principal must provide any additional information requested by of the officer.
A school attendance officer should be satisfied that the principal has evidence to demonstrate the parent has not met their responsibilities under the Education Training and Reform Act 2006 and that the improvement strategies have been assessed and deemed ineffective.
An officer may also request further information from the principal to confirm this. This information will be necessary in the event a parent wishes to appeal a decision to issue an infringement notice.
The referral should be on the official form. However if a principal makes a referral by another method and includes all the required information, school attendance officers can accept this referral.
Sending a school attendance notice
To send a school attendance notice to a parent a school attendance officer must be satisfied that:
- the student has been absent from school on at least five full days in the previous 12 months and the parent has not provided a reasonable excuse for these absences
- measures to improve the student’s attendance have been undertaken and been unsuccessful, or are inappropriate in the circumstances
- a parent responsible for the absences can be identified (school attendance notices must be addressed to a single person).
These requirements are set out
Education and Training Reform Act 2006.
A school attendance notice template is available on the Department Intranet (eduMail login required).
A school attendance notice should be accompanied by information about the importance of school attendance and the consequences if they do not comply. See:
Attendance and enrolment - resources for regions
School attendance officers and their delegates must keep file notes of any communications with schools and parents. These file notes should be signed and dated.
When sending a school attendance notice the school attendance officer should ensure:
- all fields are complete
- the document is legible
- the form is completed in blue or black pen only
- names are correct (of both the child and the parent)
- address details are correct
- all dates, including birth dates and dates of non-attendance are correct
- the notice is signed and dated
- any relevant evidence is attached to the notice
- any available fact sheets that may be of use to the recipient are attached to the notice
- copies of the school attendance notice and related documents are sent to the Director, Wellbeing, Health and Engagement Division in the Department's central office.
For referrals received from the principal of a Catholic school, the school attendance officer must notify relevant Diocesan Catholic education office wellbeing personnel that a notice has been sent.
Assessing the response to the school attendance notice
The school attendance officer is responsible for assessing a response to the school attendance notice. The decision to accept the explanation in the response rests with the school attendance officer.
An officer may consider a response when making a decision to issue an infringement notice. For offences of failing to comply with a school attendance notice, except the offence of providing false information, the school attendance officer is authorised to issue an infringement notice to the parent.
Parent responds with a reasonable excuse
If the parent responds to a school attendance notice by the due date (which must be a date no less than 21 days after it was issued) with an excuse that is deemed reasonable by the school attendance officer, they must:
- send a letter to the parent confirming they have met their obligations but must continue to ensure their child attends school, and
- instruct the principal to amend the attendance record (in CASES21 or the school’s student attendance data management system) to reflect the reason given by the parent.
Parent responds without a reasonable excuse
If the parent responds within the prescribed time, but the school attendance officer determines (in consultation with the referring principal if required) that the parent has not provided a reasonable excuse for the absences, the officer may decide to issue an infringement notice. For advice in making this decision, see:
Decision to issue an infringement notice
The school attendance officer must notify the principal of the action taken and to confirm the reason to be recorded for the absences.
Parent’s response is contradictory or unclear
If the excuse provided by a parent in response to a school attendance notice:
- contradicts a previous excuse; or
- is not clearly the excuse recorded by the principal (including no excuse recorded)
the school attendance officer should consult with the referring principal in deciding whether to accept that excuse as a reasonable excuse.
Parent responds nominating another parent
If the parent (parent A) responds to a school attendance notice within the prescribed time nominating another parent (parent B) who was responsible for the child on the days stated on the school attendance notice, then the school attendance officer must check that parent B is listed on the child’s enrolment record at the school.
If parent B is listed, the school attendance officer should send:
- a letter to parent A confirming receipt of their response, and
- a new school attendance notice to parent B.
If parent B is not listed, the school attendance officer must notify parent A that their nomination has not been accepted and they are required to respond to the school attendance notice with an explanation for the absence.
If parent B re-nominates parent A, the school attendance notice should refer the matter back to the referring principal for advice and more information.
If the principal is not certain of the responsible parent the school attendance officer will re-send the school attendance notice to parent A advising that their nomination had not been accepted and they are required to respond to the notice with an explanation for the absence.
Parent A can respond stating that they were responsible for some of the days, but not responsible for others. An offence is only committed when a reasonable excuse is not provided for five or more days of absence. The remaining days will be considered the responsibility of parent B. Accordingly, if five days of absence without explanation do accumulate, a new school attendance notice may be sent.
If the principal prefers that the school attendance officer take no further action, the principal must continue to address the attendance issue at the school level.
Parent does not respond
If the parent does not respond within the prescribed time, then the parent has committed an offence.
In these cases, it may be prudent to contact the parent by phone or email to confirm they have received a school attendance notice or whether there are other circumstances that prevented them from responding.
The school attendance officer:
- may wish to refer the parent to appropriate external agencies who may be able to provide support and assistance to the parent. In such circumstances, it may be appropriate to re-visit attendance when the circumstances have changed
- should attempt to contact the parent by other means, for example by telephone, to gather extra information before deciding on appropriate action, which may include issuing an infringement notice
- must then notify the principal of action taken and to confirm that absences are to remain recorded as unexplained.