Support vulnerable and diverse students

School communities need to understand the diversity of their communities to:

  • provide a positive and welcoming environment
  • better identify any specific support that may be required to assist student engagement and attendance.

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 or interpreters.

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

Notification of unexplained absences for students in different circumstances

  • For students in OOHC, the school is required to notify the student’s carer as soon as practicable on the day of an unexplained student absence.
  • For students in enrolled in distance education, 'Attendance' for a student enrolled in Distance Education requires them to participate in scheduled online sessions, respond to and submit tasks online and engage with teachers as required. If this does not occur for a student when it is expected and there is no explanation provided by the parent/carer, the Leading Teacher for Engagement will contact parent/carer in accordance with the school’s Student Management Action Plan.
  • For students in school-based apprenticeship or traineeship students (SBAT), same day student absence notification will only apply for SBATS on the day/s they are scheduled to be at school.
    When a SBAT is scheduled to be at the workplace or at training, they are responsible for notifying their employer, training provider and school if they are unable to attend work or training that day. See the 'Role of the apprentice or trainee' in the  School-based Apprenticeships and Traineeships (SBATs) in Victoria. Guide to Establish and Delivery SBATs (pdf - 1.67mb)
  • Same day notification still applies to students who are 'independent' or are mature age and are absent from school without explanation. The notification will be made to the nominated contact person who may be the students themselves.

Individual student 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.

In general, it is advised that schools should attempt one or more attendance improvement strategies before considering a referral to Child FIRST. Schools can report concerns to the child and family services system concurrently with a referral to a school attendance officer. Early identification and response to patterns of cumulative harm to children and young people, and assisting families to receive appropriate supports and services, is a critical part of the child and family service system.

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

Re-engagement programs

Re-engagement programs operate outside mainstream school settings and provide tailored education and support for children and young people who are disengaged, or have been identified as at risk of disengaging, from mainstream school. 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