Manage student absences

Advice for principals on whether to accept an absence, or refer the matter to an attendance officer.

On this page 'parent' refers to both parents and carers.

Excusing absences

To make a decision about student absences, a principal should:

  • consider a request from a parent to approve an absence
  • exercising their discretion as to whether or not to excuse or not excuse the absence
  • notify the parent if the absences have not been excused.

Things to consider

The principal should consider:

  • whether the absence has a reasonable exuse or the student is entitled to an exemption under the Education and Training Reform Act 2006
  • whether the student should complete learning activities during the absence
  • if this kind of absence is covered in the school’s attendance policy
  • whether or not the length of absence will affect the student’s learning
  • whether the parent has requested this kind of absence before, and if so how recently and how many times
  • whether or not the principal has approved this kind of absence before
  • cultural factors or details of the student and family’s circumstances
  • the implications of not approving the absence
  • whether an exemption would be appropriate, whereby the school should assist the parent to apply for an exemption.

Accepted absences

In general, it is expected that principals would excuse absences for:

  • medical and dental appointments, where out of hours appointments are not possible or not appropriate
  • bereavement or attendance at the funeral of a relative or friend of the student, including a student required to attend sorry business
  • school refusal, if a plan is in place with the parent to address causes
  • cultural observance, if the parent notifies the school in advance
  • family holidays, where the parent notifies the school in advance and the student completes any Student Absence Learning Plan agreed by the school, student and parent.

Absences without a reasonable excuse

In general, principals would not be expected to excuse absences, where:

  • approval had not been sought in advance or in accordance with school policy
  • the student was absent due to participating in leisure or social activities without approval
  • the conditions of approval have not been met (e.g. Student absence learning plan for a family holiday not completed)
  • the parent has provided no explanation for the absences.

The school attendance guidelines provide a comprehensive list of examples of common reasons for absences and general advice for principals.

Resources, including reference documents for common absence and template letters can be found on the Department Intranet (eduMail login required). See: Attendance - resources for principals

Principals should take care to address the letter or email to the parent deemed responsible for the child’s absence on the relevant day(s).


Truancy (where the student is absent from school due to their disobedience and not due to any fault of the parents) is a reasonable excuse for a parent in relation to non-attendance.  In deciding to accept this explanation, a principal must consider:

  • the age of the student
  • the previous attendance of the student
  • the parent’s/carer's capacity to influence and control the student’s behaviour.

Truancy is often a warning sign of disengagement and is best addressed early in partnership with the family and school.

Student whereabouts unknown

If, after multiple attempts to contact a parent, it becomes apparent the student will not be returning to school, the principal may make a referral to a school attendance officer if:

  • no alternative education destination can be found for the student i.e. the student is not known to be enrolled at another education setting; and
  • the student has been absent for 10 consecutive school days.

Read more on how to refer to a school attendance officer.

Student absence learning plan

Student absence learning plans should be implemented to support the education of students who are absent from school for an extended period.

They should be developed collaboratively by teachers, students and their parent and must be developed for students:

  • who are planning extended absences from school, for example a hospital stay or family holiday
  • suspended for more than three days
  • subject to an expulsion appeal process

Student absence learning plan template

To access a student absence learning plan template, see: Student absence learning plan (doc - 62kb).

Refer to a school attendance officer

For more information, see Refer to a school attendance officer​.

Notification of a child's absence

Fact sheet for parents     share with parents, carers’ and your school community (docx - 328.77kb).