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Education and Training Reform Amendment (School Attendance) Bill 2013

Introduction

On 16 April 2013, the Napthine Coalition Government introduced the Education and Training Reform Amendment (School Attendance) Bill 2013 ('the Bill') into the Legislative Assembly. The Bill provides for proposed amendments to the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 ('the Act') in relation to compulsory enrolment and attendance at school. Notably, it provides for the introduction of a system where a school attendance officer can – in certain circumstances – issue the parent of an unenrolled or absent child with a 'school enrolment notice' or a 'school attendance notice'. If the parent fails to comply with the school enrolment notice or the school attendance notice, the school attendance officer can issue him or her with a penalty infringement notice of half a penalty unit (currently $70.42[footnote 1]).

1. Second Reading Speech

The Minister for Education, the Hon. Martin Dixon, gave the second reading speech for the Education and Training Reform Amendment (School Attendance) Bill on 17 April 2013. The Minister began his speech by stating that the Bill proposes amendments to the Act to enable enforcement of the duties of a parent to ensure the enrolment and attendance of their child at a registered school, or to ensure their child is registered for home schooling. He said that the proposed amendments recognise the importance of daily school attendance for a young person to succeed in education and fulfil their life potential. He further said that 'Whilst the duties of a parent to ensure enrolment and school attendance are currently mandated, existing processes for enforcing these obligations are convoluted and can require a full court proceeding for each incident'.[footnote 2]

The Minister stated that the Bill proposes to allow a school attendance officer, who has made enquiries and reasonably believes that a child is not enrolled at a registered school nor is registered for home schooling, to issue a school enrolment notice to the parent. The parent then has the opportunity to provide a reason why the child is not enrolled, to enrol the child, or register the child for home schooling, in response to the notice.[footnote 3]

The Minister said that the Bill also proposes to allow a school attendance officer to issue a school attendance notice if the officer reasonably believes that the child has been absent from school 'for at least five separate days in the previous 12 months, without reasonable excuse, and where measures to improve student attendance have been unsuccessful' or 'considered inappropriate'. In both instances the Bill provides the parent the opportunity to offer a reasonable excuse and allows consideration for shared custody arrangements.[footnote 4]

The Minister continued on to state that 'A failure to comply with a school enrolment notice or a school attendance notice will constitute an offence' and that a 'failure to provide a reasonable excuse for the non-attendance or non-enrolment of the child in response to a notice in the required time may result in the issuing of a penalty infringement notice'.[footnote 5]

The Minister emphasised that the Government is pursuing a range of strategies to strengthen engagement and participation of students and families in education.[footnote 6] He said that it is the Government's intention that 'the use of penalty infringement notices is a last resort for repeated failure of the duty of a parent to ensure the enrolment or attendance of their child at a registered school, or to register their child for home schooling'.[footnote 7]

He said that it is the Government's intention to issue guidelines setting out measures to improve student attendance that must be taken prior to issuing a school attendance notice. He said that the guidelines 'will encourage Principals to consider any social, cultural, lingual, economic, geographic or learning difficulties and the circumstances of the student and family before making a referral to a school attendance officer'.[footnote 8]

The Minister further said that the Bill also provides additional powers to school attendance officers to enable them to gather information from Principals about enrolment or attendance, and to use and disclose information recorded in the Student Register. He added that access to this information is restricted to school attendance officers carrying out their responsibilities assigned by the Bill.[footnote 9]


2. Background

The Background section of this Research Brief firstly provides a brief overview of the issue of school absenteeism and its long-term impact on young people's lives. Secondly, it provides a short legislative and policy history since 2006. Thirdly, it provides some statistical data on rates of school absenteeism in Victoria and other Australian jurisdictions.

School Absenteeism

It is well established that education is linked to successful life outcomes. The Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) states that: 'Young people who regularly attend school and complete Year 12 or an equivalent qualification have better health outcomes, better employment outcomes, and higher incomes across their lives'.[footnote 10] Accordingly, it is widely recognised that being absent from school can impact negatively on a young person's educational achievements and life chances.[footnote 11]

The 2004 Victorian Auditor-General report into managing school absenteeism emphasised the long-term effects of educational disadvantage on young people's lives. It stated that: 'Students who regularly miss school are at greatest risk of dropping-out of school early, becoming long-term unemployed, being homeless, being caught in the poverty trap, depending on welfare and being involved in the justice system'.[footnote 12]

The 2012 Victorian Auditor-General report into school completion rates cited research that similarly identified that 'young people who disengage from education early are almost four times more likely to report poor health, have mortality rates up to nine times higher than the general population and are more likely to require welfare support and government subsidised services'.[footnote 13]

The Good Shepherd Youth and Family Service states that the key groups of young people who are likely to experience educational disengagement and disadvantage are those who:

§ are affected by poverty,

§ are Indigenous,

§ are from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, including refugees,

§ live in out-of-home care,

§ have parents who are involved in the criminal justice system,

§ experience disabilities or mental health issues, or whose parents experience these issues,

§ have experienced, or whose parents have experienced domestic and family violence,

§ are pregnant or parenting.[footnote 14]

The Auditor-General report into school absenteeism similarly found that its causes are complex and often interrelated.[footnote 15] The report found that research identified two types of factors contributing to absenteeism: the first being family and personal factors and the second being school factors. The report noted that students may experience one or more of these factors and that as the factors increase, so does the likelihood of the student being absent. Family and personal factors were listed as including:

§ transience, mobility and homelessness;

§ geographic isolation;

§ low parental valuing of, or interest in, education;

§ low socioeconomic status;

§ unemployment;

§ illness and attention deficit disorders;

§ a culture that does not value schooling, or gives higher priority to other activities;

§ substance misuse; and

§ abuse of, or by, family members.[footnote 16]

School factors were listed as including:

§ dislike of subjects;

§ boredom with schoolwork;

§ irrelevant or restrictive curriculum;

§ inadequate relations between a student and their teacher;

§ learning difficulties;

§ inadequate school support and welfare;

§ inflexible school structure;

§ inadequate peer relations; and

§ being bullied, threatened or involved in fights.[footnote 17]

It is widely recognised that best practice in combatting school absenteeism involves stakeholders working together to promote school engagement. The DEECD produces a range of strategies for schools to promote school attendance, including student engagement guidelines, and states that:

While student attendance at school is a legal obligation of parents/carers, consistent with the Education and Training Reform Act 2006, Victorian government schools, in partnership with parents/carers, students and the wider community, must provide active support for full student attendance and retention until the completion of Year 12 or its equivalent.[footnote 18]

Researcher Graeme Withers states that school and community factors commonly cited as conducive to supporting school attendance include:

§ Whole school commitment to effort in reducing absenteeism and suspensions, involving not just the whole school community, but also its surrounding community;

§ Provision of options for any suspended students, allowing their learning to proceed;

§ Changing a school climate to emphasise cooperation and to encourage active learning, to take place in and out of the classroom;

§ Cultural inclusiveness and sensitivity to learning styles, languages and traditions amongst minority ethnic groups;

§ Smaller schools where values and expectations are shared and clear, both in policies and their enactment;

§ A thorough system of pastoral care and counselling, which reaches parents as well as students;

§ Dynamic classrooms led rather than ruled by teachers;

§ Classrooms which respond flexibly to students' stated or perceived needs, rather than a rigid, qualifications-driven process;

§ Strengthening teachers' skills with in-service education which enables them to function more professionally for a wider range of student abilities and interests.[footnote 19]


Legislative and Policy History

In 2006, the Bracks Labor government introduced the Education and Training Reform Act, which sets out the current provisions regarding compulsory school enrolment and attendance. The Act provides that it is the duty of the parent of a child (aged 6–17 years) to enrol the child at a registered school and ensure the child attends school; or to register the child for home schooling and ensure the child receives home schooling.[footnote 20] It is an offence for the parent to fail to comply with this duty without a reasonable excuse.[footnote 21]

A reasonable excuse includes but is not limited to things such as illness, accident, attending a religious event, and that the absence was because of the child's disobedience rather than being the fault of the parent (see Appendix 1 for a complete list of what constitutes a reasonable excuse).[footnote 22] The penalty for failing to comply without a reasonable excuse is one penalty unit for each day that the child is absent.[footnote 23] The Act also provides for the appointment of school attendance officers who have the power to bring court proceedings for such an offence.[footnote 24]

Notably, since the commencement of the Act in 2006-2007, no court proceedings have been brought against a parent under this provision and the penalty has not been used.[footnote 25]

The Coalition went to the 2010 Victorian state election with a policy to enforce this penalty. In the lead up to the election, the then Shadow Minister for Education, Martin Dixon, stated in a media release that 'laws passed four years ago make it compulsory for parents to ensure children attend school, with fines for each day a student misses school without a reasonable excuse' but that 'no fines have been issued to the minority of parents who allow their children to miss school'. He said that it would be a Coalition Government's policy to enforce these laws and 'remind parents of their responsibility to ensure their children attend school'.[footnote 26]

In February 2013, the Coalition Government released the exposure draft of the Education and Training Reform Amendment (School Attendance) Bill for public consultation, together with draft regulations and guidelines. The draft presented the Coalition's further developed policy on enforcing school attendance by providing school attendance officers with the power to issue a newly introduced infringement notice that penalises a parent half a penalty unit if their child is not enrolled in school or has been absent from school without a reasonable excuse on five or more days.[footnote 27]

Exposure Draft and Public Consultation

The DEECD website explained that the draft Bill, regulations and guidelines 'provide a framework for the enforcement of compulsory school attendance through the introduction of a penalty infringement notice' and 'articulate the range of supports and strategies schools can put in place to promote attendance and address complex issues of non-attendance'.[footnote 28] It emphasised that, as is the current procedure, 'schools will still be required to follow processes for the recording, monitoring and follow up of attendance, including correspondence and meetings with parents to work in partnership with families to address identified attendance issues'.[footnote 29]

The draft regulations consist of templates for the school enrolment notice and the school attendance notice. The draft guidelines are titled 'Compulsory School Attendance: Procedures for Schools and School Attendance Officers' and are discussed below.

Draft Guidelines for Schools

The draft guidelines provide advice for schools to implement successful attendance policies and procedures, including options for when a school has exhausted strategies for addressing a student's unsatisfactory attendance. The draft guidelines state that referring a student attendance matter to a school attendance officer may be appropriate when the Principal determines that:

§ Intervention strategies have been unable to secure parental engagement and improvement in school attendance (or engagement in another education program); and

§ Requiring the parent to respond to the notice will convey the seriousness of the matter and is likely to elicit an improvement in attendance.[footnote 30]

In addition to the minimum requirements already set out in the Act, before making a referral a principal should:

§ Be satisfied that the reasons for the failure to comply with attendance requirements have been explored, including any social, cultural, lingual, economic, geographic or learning difficulties;

§ Ensure that if a student support group has been established for the student, or another support mechanism exists for the student, that group has been consulted about the particular attendance issue or that mechanism utilised before making a referral to a school attendance officer;

§ Consider the particular circumstances of the student and family in deciding to make a referral, including likely consequences if the parent does not respond adequately to a school attendance notice.[footnote 31]

Draft Guidelines for School Attendance Officers

The draft guidelines also provide information for school attendance officers to implement procedures for enforcing the attendance laws proposed by the Bill. They set out the process for issuing a school attendance notice, assessing the response, determining whether to issue a penalty infringement notice, and ultimately whether to bring court proceedings.[footnote 32] The draft guidelines state that 'The infringements regime recognises there are circumstances in which a person's capacity to comply with a law or regulation is limited for reasons beyond their control. In such circumstances, it would be unfair to punish the person for their non-compliance'.[footnote 33]

The draft guidelines state that any person receiving an infringement notice may apply for an internal agency review of the decision to issue the notice if the person has 'special circumstances' such as a disability, serious addiction or homelessness that results in the person being unable to understand or control the conduct that constitutes the offence.[footnote 34]

The parent can also appeal the decision if there are 'exceptional circumstances' (cases where a person has enough awareness and self-control to be liable for his or her conduct but has a good excuse) or the decision was contrary to law or a case of mistaken identity.[footnote 35]

The draft guidelines then advise that it would be appropriate for a school attendance officer to send an infringement notice when a parent has not responded to a school attendance notice or has responded without giving a reasonable excuse, and provided no further information about special or exceptional circumstances, or after receiving an official warning notice.[footnote 36]

In regard to bringing proceedings in court, the draft guidelines state that it would be appropriate for a school attendance officer to bring proceedings after three infringement notices have been issued to a parent over a period of two years; or after determining that a parent has provided false information in the response to the school attendance notice. Additionally, it is stated that 'If the agency review of a matter for special circumstances' decides to confirm the infringement notice, the matter must be referred to Court for consideration', and that:

A school attendance officer may decide to take this action in other circumstances, at their discretion. In making the decision to bring proceedings in court, school attendance officers are required to refer to these guidelines and to operate with [footnote sic] the Code of Conduct for school attendance officers.[footnote 37]

Stakeholder Submissions on the Exposure Draft

Stakeholder submissions on the exposure draft of the Bill and guidelines closed in March 2013 and are not being made publically available by the DEECD at the time of writing. There are two submissions which have been made publically available by the submitting organisations themselves – the Good Shepherd Youth and Family Service and the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission – and a brief overview of each is provided below.

The submission by the Good Shepherd Youth and Family Service did not support the introduction of the penalty infringement notice proposed by the exposure draft.[footnote 38] Good Shepherd stated that research shows that positive strategies that increase student and family engagement are the most effective approach to combatting school absenteeism and that there is 'no evidence that punitive mechanisms – such as imposing fines – are effective strategies for addressing these issues'.[footnote 39] Good Shepherd pointed to the experience of the United Kingdom which it stated has introduced similar measures, but has found that 'they seem to have little impact on increasing student retention in the long-term' and may have placed additional stress on families that were already socially and economically disadvantaged.[footnote 40]

Good Shepherd also stated that 'There is a lack of evidence surrounding the impetus for the Bill' as there is a lack of publically available disaggregated data on school absenteeism, and called on the Government to produce and release such data.[footnote 41]

The submission by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission also did not support the introduction of the penalty infringement notice proposed by the exposure draft.[footnote 42] The Commission stated that: 'International and local research raises serious questions about the persuasive power of infringement notices to change behaviour and act as a deterrent'.[footnote 43] The Commission further stated that whilst it 'appreciates that infringements are part of a broader suite of interventions aimed at addressing the underlying causes of non-attendance', it submitted that 'the Bill requires additional safeguards to ensure that it does not disproportionately affect disadvantaged people, with unintended consequences'.[footnote 44]

The Commission recommended that the guidelines for schools and attendance officers should provide further guidance on what constitutes a 'reasonable excuse'; that school attendance officers be required to issue a warning prior to issuing an infringement notice; that clarification is provided on how an internal review would operate in practice; that the 'narrow' definition of 'special circumstances' be broadened; and that 'exceptional circumstances' be defined.[footnote 45]

The Commission further recommended that the infringements system should be extended to the State in regard to children in out-of-home care, and that the Bill be amended to require the collection of data at a state-wide, regional and school level on rates of absenteeism, the number of warnings and infringement notices issued, and the effectiveness of those warnings and infringement notices in improving enrolment and attendance.[footnote 46]


Statistics

Table 1 below sets out the latest available national figures for student attendance rates for 2010. The data for all states is fairly regular, with Victoria rating particularly well and the Northern Territory rating below all of the other states and territories.

It should be noted however, that each of the jurisdictions has its own methodology for calculating attendance rates. In Victoria, the data represent the number of actual full-time equivalent 'student days' attended in Semester 1 2010 as a percentage of the total number of possible student days attended over that period.

Table 1. Student attendance rates, government schools, by Year level, by State and Territory, 2010 (per cent)

Year

Vic.

NSW

Qld.

SA

WA

Tas.

NT

ACT

Year 1

94

94

92

92

92

94

83

94

Year 2

94

94

93

92

93

94

83

94

Year 3

94

94

93

92

93

95

83

94

Year 4

94

94

93

93

93

95

84

94

Year 5

94

94

93

92

93

95

84

94

Year 6

94

94

93

92

93

94

85

93

Year 7

93

93

92

92

92

93

81

92

Year 8

91

91

90

89

90

91

79

89

Year 9

90

89

88

87

88

89

77

87

Year 10

90

88

87

85

86

87

77

86

Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority[footnote 47]

Table 2 below, sets out the average absence days per full-time equivalent student (FTE) in Victorian Government schools. Student absences however are not a measure of truancy. Data provided by the Department of Education state that in 2011 only 0.28 per cent of all absence days reported by Government schools were due to truancy and 0.62 per cent were recorded as school refusal.

According to the Department's fact sheet for parents, It's Not OK To Be Away, truancy is defined as a child being absent from school without parental knowledge, while school refusal is where a child does not want to attend school, even though the parent has tried. Other categories that make up the school absence data are illness/injury and school withdrawal, where a child does not attend school with parental permission. Examples of the latter include: family holidays, baby-sitting, helping parents at home, and working in the family business.[footnote 48]

Table 2 provides a snapshot of average absence days for students enrolled in government schools over the last six years. It indicates that the number of absence days has increased slightly in 2011 since 2010, and has increased by almost a day from 2006 to 2011.

Table 2. Victoria – Average Absence Days per FTE 2006-2011 (Government Schools)

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

14.49

14.63

15.2

15.85

15.35

15.5

Source: Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.[footnote 49]

Table 3 below sets out the average absence days per full-time equivalent student by year level in government schools in 2011. It demonstrates that absence days peak in the middle years of school (year 8 to 10). According to the Auditor-General's 2004 report into school absenteeism in Victoria, missing around 21 days of school is the equivalent of missing 10 per cent of the school year, or half a day every week. It stated that attendance rates improve after Year 10 'as students reach the age where schooling is no longer compulsory, those with the worst attendance records often drop out'.[footnote 50] It should be noted, however, that the Victorian school leaving age was increased from 15 to 16 in 2007 and from 16 to 17 in 2010.[footnote 51]

Table 3. Victoria – Average Absence Days per FTE for 2011 by Year Level (Government Schools)

Prep

Yr 1

Yr 2

Yr 3

Yr 4

Yr 5

Yr 6

Yr 7

Yr 8

Yr 9

Yr 10

Yr 11

Yr 12

P-12

14.6

14.2

14

13.6

13.9

14

14.4

16

19.8

21.9

19.6

14.8

11

15.5

Source: Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.[footnote 52]

Table 4 below sets out the average absence days per full-time equivalent student in prep to Year 12 for government schools by region in Victoria from 2006 to 2011. With regard to the regions, metropolitan areas tend to have slightly lower average absence days than non-metropolitan areas, with Eastern Metropolitan having the lowest average number of absence days (13.48 in 2011), in contrast to Hume with the highest average absence days (18.12 in 2011), closely followed by Loddon Mallee (17.69 in 2011).

Many of the regions including all of the metropolitan regions and the Grampians peaked in 2009 and have shown slight decreases in average absence days over the last couple of years. Loddon Mallee and Hume however, indicate an incremental 'creep' in average absence days experienced over the last six years.

Table 4. Average Absence Days per Student Prep to Year 12 (Government Schools) by Region for Victoria, 2006-2011

Region

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Western Metropolitan

14.56

15.41

16.05

16.14

15.45

15.77

Northern Metropolitan

15.05

15.21

15.6

16.55

15.26

15.48

Eastern Metropolitan

13.06

12.92

13.61

14.28

13.75

13.48

Southern Metropolitan

14.1

14.52

14.93

15.3

15.08

14.73

Barwon-South Western

15.51

15.33

16.64

16.61

16.17

16.68

Grampians

14.52

14.53

15.45

16.45

15.51

15.71

Loddon Mallee

16.17

15.76

15.57

16.61

16.64

17.69

Hume

14.91

14.84

16.3

17.04

17.15

18.12

Gippsland

15.29

15.14

15.12

17.28

17.38

16.92

State

14.49

14.63

15.2

15.85

15.35

15.45

Source: Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.[footnote 53]

This picture is fairly consistent with school completion rates for metropolitan and non- metropolitan regions in Victoria. The Victorian Auditor-General's 2012 report into Student Completion Rates mentions the Victorian Parliament's Education and Training Committee's 2009 inquiry into the Geographical Differences in the Rate in which Victorian Students Participate in Higher Education, which found that students in non-metropolitan areas are significantly less likely to complete school than students in metropolitan areas. The Auditor-General's report found that recent DEECD data strongly supported the Committee's findings and that 'the gap [footnote between metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas] not only exists but is widening.'[footnote 54]


3. The Bill

This section of the Research Brief provides a summarised overview of the main provisions of the Education and Training Reform Amendment (School Attendance) Bill 2013. For a description of the Bill in its entirety, readers are directed to consult the Explanatory Memorandum.

Purpose

Clause 1 of the Bill provides that the main purpose of the proposed Act is to amend the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 in relation to compulsory enrolment and attendance at school.

Commencement

Clause 2 of the Bill provides that the proposed Act will come into operation on a day or days to be proclaimed, but if a provision of the Act does not come into operation before 1 April 2014, it will come into operation on that day.

Offence for parent to fail to comply with duty

Clause 5 of the Bill amends section 2.1.2 of the Act which presently provides that it is an offence for a parent to fail to comply with the duty to ensure their child is enrolled and attending school or being home schooled, and that the penalty is one penalty unit for each day on which the duty is not complied with. Clause 5 repeals this penalty.

New section 2.1.2A inserted

Clause 6 of the Bill inserts new section 2.1.2A into the Act which provides that it is an offence for a parent not to provide instruction to a child registered for home schooling with a penalty of one penalty unit for each day on which the duty is not complied with (thereby preserving the original penalty in the case of home schooling).

What is a reasonable excuse?

Clause 7 of the Bill makes some changes to what constitutes a 'reasonable excuse' set out in section 2.1.3 of the Act. According to the Explanatory Memorandum, it removes 'the child's absence from Victoria' as a reasonable excuse; provides that a principal has discretion to accept an excuse that is outside of the reasons prescribed as a reasonable excuse; and provides that it is a reasonable excuse if the Minister has exempted the child from enrolment.[footnote 55]

Exemption from attendance at school

Clause 8 amends section 2.1.5 of the Act to provide the Minister with the power to exempt a child from attendance and/or enrolment. At present, the Minister only has the power to exempt a child from attendance.

Power of school attendance officers

Clause 10 makes additions to section 2.1.10(2) of the Act to provide that a principal must, on the request of a school attendance officer, provide the officer with any information regarding the enrolment or attendance of students that the officer may reasonably require (for the purpose of carrying out the officer's functions and powers under this Part of the Act). It also provides that the officer may access, use or disclose information recorded in the Student Register. The Student Register is established under section 5.3A.7 of the Education and Training Reform Act. It records the student number, name, date of birth and gender of each Victorian student under the age of 25.

Power to bring proceedings

Clause 11 of the Bill amends section 2.1.12 of the Act to provide that school attendance officers may bring proceedings for any offence set out in the new Division 3 of Part 2.1 inserted by clause 13.

New Division 3 of Part 2.1 inserted

Clause 13 of the Bill inserts new Division 3 at the end of Part 2.1 of the Act. The new Division 3 provides for school enrolment notices, school attendance notices, and infringement notices. It consists of new sections 2.1.15 to 2.1.24.

New section 2.1.15 provides for the issuing of a school enrolment notice by a school attendance officer. It provides that:

(1) This section applies if a school attendance officer, after making enquiries, has reasonable grounds to believe that a child of compulsory school age is not, at the time of making the enquiries, enrolled at a registered school and is not registered for home schooling in accordance with the regulations.

(2) A school attendance officer may issue a school enrolment notice to a parent.

(3) For the purposes of subsection (1), the enquiries made by the school attendance officer may include—

(a) ascertaining whether the child is registered for home schooling on the State Register;

(b) ascertaining whether the child is included on the Student Register and ascertaining any details contained on the Student Register regarding the child;

(c) ascertaining whether the child is included on the register of students kept by the child's designated neighbourhood Government school.

New section 2.1.16 provides for the issuing of a school attendance notice by a school attendance officer. It states that:

(1) This section applies if the school attendance officer has reasonable grounds to believe—

(a) a child who is enrolled at a registered school has been absent from the school on at least 5 separate days (whether or not the absence was for a full day or part day) in the previous 12 months; and

(b) no reasonable excuse has been given for the absences; and

(c) measures to improve the student's attendance—

(i) have been undertaken in accordance with any guidelines issued by the Minister and have been unsuccessful; or

(ii) are considered to be inappropriate in the circumstances.

(2) A school attendance officer may issue a school attendance notice to a parent.

New section 2.1.17 sets out the prescribed form and content for the school enrolment notice, including the request that the parent complete the reply form forwarded with the notice and that the due date of the response be at least three weeks after the notice.

New section 2.1.18 similarly sets out the prescribed form and content for the school attendance notice, including the request that the parent complete the reply form forwarded with the notice and the date by which the parent must respond to the notice.

New section 2.1.19 provides that a parent must respond to the school enrolment notice, within the due date specified on the notice, by completing the reply form forwarded with the notice and stating in it the true reason why the child is not enrolled at school; or that the child is enrolled at a registered school or registered for home schooling and the details of that enrolment or registration, or that the parent cannot provide a reason because they did not have custody of the child at that time.

New section 2.1.20 provides that a parent must respond to a school attendance notice before the date specified on the notice and state in it the true reason why the child did not attend school; or that the child was not living with the parent on that date or dates and the details of the parent with whom the child was living.

New section 2.1.21 sets out the offences and penalties for failing to comply with a school enrolment notice or school attendance notice. It provides that:

(1) A person who has received a school enrolment notice must respond to the notice in accordance with section 2.1.19. Penalty: 5 penalty units.

(2) A person who has received a school attendance notice must respond to the notice in accordance with section 2.1.20. Penalty: 5 penalty units.

(3) A person who responds to a school enrolment notice but fails to provide a reasonable excuse as to why the child is not enrolled in a registered school or registered for home schooling in accordance with the regulations is guilty of an offence and liable to a penalty not exceeding 5 penalty units.

(4) A person who responds to a school attendance notice but fails to give a reasonable excuse for 5 or more of the dates specified in the notice is guilty of an offence and liable to a penalty not exceeding 5 penalty units.

(5) Nothing in this section makes the following people liable to a pecuniary penalty or to be prosecuted for any offence—

(a) the Secretary, Department of Human Services carrying out parental responsibilities for a child under an order made under the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005; or

(b) a person carrying out parental responsibilities for a child on behalf of the Secretary, Department of Human Services.

New section 2.1.22 provides that it is an offence for a person who responds to a school enrolment or attendance notice to give false information in the reply form with a penalty of 5 penalty units. An infringement notice cannot be issued against this offence.

New section 2.1.23 is the section that deals with infringement notices, penalties and offences. It provides that:

(1) A school attendance officer may serve an infringement notice on a person who the school attendance officer has reason to believe has committed an offence against section 2.1.21.

(2) An offence against section 2.1.21 is an infringement offence within the meaning of the Infringements Act 2006.

(3) The infringement penalty for an offence against section 2.1.21 is 0.5 penalty units.

New section 2.1.24 provides that the Minister may issue guidelines about matters relating to measures that may be undertaken to encourage and support the enrolment of a child; and matters relating to measures that may be undertaken to improve a student's attendance at school.


4. Other Jurisdictions

This section of the Research Brief provides information on enforcing compulsory school enrolment and attendance in other jurisdictions. It firstly provides information on Australian jurisdictions and secondly provides information on some international jurisdictions.

Australian Jurisdictions

The policies for school attendance vary across the states and territories, with differences including the reasonable excuses considered acceptable for a child to be absent from school, the number of days that constitute unlawful non-attendance, and the notification and penalty processes applied to contraventions of the relevant laws. The differences are summarised below and the notification and penalty processes are then discussed in more detail on a state-by-state basis.

The requirement for a responsible parent or care-giver to ensure their child of compulsory school age is enrolled in and attending school is set out in the following legislation in each of the states and territories:

§ Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic)

§ Education Act 1990 (NSW)

§ Education (General Provisions) Act 2006 (Qld)

§ Education Act 1972 (SA)

§ Education Act 1994 (Tas)

§ School Education Act 1999 (WA)

§ Education Act (NT)

§ Education Act 2004 (ACT)

This legislation is also supported by comprehensive policy guidelines:

§ Victoria – School Policy & Advisory Guide: Attendance

§ NSW - School Attendance Policy

§ Queensland - Every Day Counts

§ SA – Attendance in Schools

§ Tasmania – Enrolment, Attendance and Participation

§ WA – Student Attendance

§ NT – Every Child, Every Day

§ ACT – Education Participation (Enrolment and Attendance) Policy

Under these arrangements, reasonable excuses a parent may use for not ensuring their child attends school range from physical and mental incapacity through to an inability to control the child's behaviour. In NSW, a list of reasonable excuses that can be used as a defence against prosecution is included within section 23 of the Education Act 1990. This list is exhaustive and the excuses contained within it must be supplied to the school within seven days. The Director-General of the Education Department can issue a certificate of exemption from particular classes, or if the Minister has issued a certificate of exemption from attendance. Similarly, in Queensland, an application for exemption must be made to the Principal or Regional Director if the excuse does not fall within those listed in the Act.[footnote 56] In Tasmania, the excuses of sickness and temporary physical or mental incapacity are listed in the Act alongside the provision for absences due to a reasonable cause 'which the principal in their professional capacity judges to be in the best educational interests of the child'.[footnote 57] In WA, the excuses for non-attendance can be temporary physical or mental incapacity, or 'any other reasonable cause', and the school must be notified within three days of the absence (s 25, School Education Act).

Outside of these reasonable excuses, absences of proscribed length are considered unlawful. In NSW, obligations to ensure a child attends school have not been met if the child is absent without an excuse for more than three days in the preceding three months during which the school has been open (s 23). In the ACT, official processes must be employed if a child has more than seven unexplained absences in a year. [footnote 58] In WA, absences are investigated if the attendance rate of a child falls below 90 per cent.[footnote 59] Policy documents provide guidance in SA on how to identify students at high risk, with those students with five or more absences per term considered at risk of habitual non-attendance, and those students with 10 or more absences per term considered at risk of chronic non-attendance.[footnote 60]

The penalties that can be imposed on a parent for not ensuring their child attends school vary in severity by jurisdiction (see Table 5). Further, the processes involved in avoiding the necessity of prosecution are disparate, with a recent push towards inserting conferencing and support measures into legislation. Details on the notification and penalty arrangements in each of the states and territories are provided below, with attention given to the infringement notices system in the Northern Territory given its similarities to those proposed by the Bill.


Table 5: Penalties for failing to ensure a child attends school, by jurisdiction

Jurisdiction

Penalty unit

(as of 1 January 2013)

Infringement notice penalty

Maximum penalty

(first offence)

Penalty units

Value

Penalty units

Value

Victoria*

$140.84

0.5PUs

$70.40

5PUs

$704.20

NSW

$110

-

-

25PUs

$2,750

Queensland

$110

-

-

6PUs

$660

ACT

$110

-

-

10Pus

$1,100

Tasmania

$130

-

-

10PUs

$1,300

Northern Territory

$141

2PUs

$282

15PUs

$2,115

South Australia

n/a

-

-

n/a

$500

Western Australia

n/a

-

-

n/a

$1,000

*Penalty proposed by this Bill

Northern Territory

As can be seen from the statistics provided in the Background Section of this Research Brief, the Northern Territory has the lowest attendance figures in the country. This can in part be attributed to the territory's large proportion of remote and indigenous communities. In order to more actively engage students in education, the NT Government has developed an action plan, called Every Child, Every Day, that involves a variety of initiatives including rewards for 'frequent attenders' and leadership programs. Under the action plan, targets of 90 per cent attendance and participation have been set and the following stages of action applied:

§ Proactive action to support regular attendance;

§ Alert action to determine reasons for absence when there have been more than three days of consecutive unexplained absence;

§ Supportive action, including meetings with the family, when a significant pattern of absenteeism has been identified;

§ Formal action for a child who has failed to enrol or attend regularly, including a compulsory face to face meeting, a Family Responsibility Agreement and warnings that an infringement notice could be issued if absence continues;

§ Consequences for failure to comply, including issuing an infringement notice, prosecution and other measures.[footnote 61]

It is stated that infringement notices and prosecution are only administered in the last instance after a raft of other measures has been employed. The infringement notice penalty for parents is 2 penalty units (currently $282), but if the case is taken to court the maximum penalty that can be applied is 15 penalty units ($2115) for the first offence and 20 penalty units ($2820) for further offences. If a child of compulsory school age is living independently, the infringement notice penalty for the child is 0.2 penalty units ($28), and if the case is taken to court the maximum penalty that can be applied to the child is 1.5 penalty units ($211.50) for the first offence and 2 penalty units ($282) for subsequent offences.[footnote 62]

Infringement notices can be issued in instances where parents or independent children fail to comply with Departmental notices or directions without reasonable excuse. Continued non-compliance can lead to prosecution. Attendance and Truancy Officers can issue directions to enrol, compliance notices, compulsory conference directions and infringement notices.[footnote 63] Information notices may also be issued in instances where it is reasonably believed that the NT Education Act (s 23) is not being complied with, and further information is required.

These measures were introduced in 2011 by the then Labor Government. In particular, the inclusion of infringement notices was noted in the second reading speech of the Education Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 as a step forward in enforcement by providing an option outside of the court system:

The capacity to issue infringement notices will provide effective, cost efficient and responsive methods of summarily enforcing offences. Infringement notices also provide a method of enforcement without the cost and delays associated with prosecution, and they have the further benefit of motivating parents to comply with the legislative requirements.[footnote 64]

In conjunction with this system, the NT Government also increased the penalties for offences that actually reach the stage of prosecution.

New South Wales

Under section 23 of the Education Act 1990 (NSW), in situations where a child is not enrolled in or attending school, proceedings can be commenced by, or with the written permission of, the Director-General of the NSW Department of Education and Training (s 23). Failure to ensure a compulsory school age child is enrolled at or attending a school carries a maximum penalty of 25 penalty units (currently $2750) for the first offence, 50 penalty units ($5500) for further offences, and 100 penalty units ($11,000) in the case of a parent subject to a compulsory schooling order (ss 23(1)).

However, under new sections inserted in 2009 (ss 22A-22D), options other than a pecuniary punishment are available. The Children's Court has the power to make a 'compulsory schooling order' that requires a parent to cause the child to receive compulsory schooling in accordance with the conditions set out in the order, upon the application of the Director-General. A conference of relevant parties may also be directed by the Children's Court during proceedings for a compulsory schooling order, or by the Director-General at any time before or after such proceedings. Further, the Director-General may organise a written undertaking with one or more of the parents with respect to the schooling arrangements for the child, known as a 'compulsory schooling undertaking', at any time. These amendments also made it possible for a court to make a community service order, in place of a fine (ss 23(5)).

Queensland

Under the Queensland Act, the chief executive (or authorised officer) may issue a parent with an approved form outlining their obligations if the officer reasonably suspects the child is not enrolled at or attending a school (s 178). Before a parent can be prosecuted for not meeting their obligation, an officer must arrange a meeting to discuss the parent's obligations (or a warning notice must have been issued to the parent in cases where the meeting did not take place despite the officer taking reasonable steps to meet with the parent) (s 179).

The penalty for not meeting the obligation to ensure a child is enrolled at and attending a school is six penalty units (currently $660) for the first offence, and 12 penalty units ($1320) for subsequent offences (whether or not it relates to the same child of the parent). However, the policy documents supporting the legislation note that 'prosecution is seen as a last resort and schools are encouraged to implement strategies to assist parents and students with attendance issues prior to taking further action'.[footnote 65] Possible strategies include creating an Individual Attendance Plan with the student, or establishing a mentoring program for at risk students.

Western Australia

Under section 38 of the School Education Act, the penalty for a parent who fails to ensure their child attends school is $1000. A child of compulsory school age may also be subject to a penalty of $10 for failing to attend school. If attendance by a student falls below 90 per cent over a term, a principal will further investigate the reasons for absence, organise a parent/teacher meeting, and document all attendance improvement plans. If persistent or chronic non-attendance is identified, a principal can request the help of a network or regional attendance officer to assist in revising existing strategies and the child's attendance improvement plan. Where these measures are unsuccessful, the principal can request a formal meeting with the parent to explore the factors preventing attendance and to document a formal attendance improvement plan. A principal may refer the matter to the Regional Executive Director with a recommendation to form a Responsible Parenting Agreement or Responsible Parenting Order under the Parental Support and Responsibility Act 2008, or consider prosecution if a formal meeting has been unable to secure parental engagement and improvement in school attendance.[footnote 66]

Australian Capital Territory

In the ACT, schools are required to develop their own school attendance procedures and assess regular school attendance on a case-by-case basis. The Director-General of the ACT Education Division can issue parents with an information notice in order to obtain information to make a decision as to whether attendance and participation requirements are being met. If the Director-General believes the requirements are not being met, a compliance notice may be issued. Similar to the other jurisdictions, the policy documentation states that a compliance notice is only issued as a last resort and support services should continue to be used in order to re-engage the child. Failure to comply with an information notice is an offence which carries a maximum penalty of five penalty units (currently $550); failure to comply with a compliance notice carries a maximum penalty of 10 penalty units ($1100).[footnote 67]

Tasmania

According to Tasmania Department of Education procedure documents, principals should 'seek support from and work with other agencies and support services in accordance with agreements where students' attendance patterns become irregular'.[footnote 68] Officially, the Minister may request information on the 'particulars of the child' under section 13 of the Education Act 1994 to support decisions made about the attendance of that child. Failure to respond to such a request can incur a fine, not exceeding five penalty units (currently $650). Failure to ensure a child is enrolled in and attending school is punishable by a fine not exceeding 10 penalty units (currently $1300) and a daily fine not exceeding two penalty units ($260) (ss 4 and 6). Proceedings can only be taken by a person authorised by the Minister.

South Australia

Parents in SA who do not ensure their children attend school are liable to a penalty not exceeding $500. However, prosecution is taken on a case-by-case basis, and cannot proceed before all possible interventions have been pursued. Such interventions include conferencing and interviews, as well as an attendance improvement plan.[footnote 69]

International Jurisdictions

This section examines how selected international jurisdictions have addressed the issue of school attendance and truancy. It should be noted that it is difficult to draw comparisons between international jurisdictions due to the degree of variation in education systems, social and economic issues, geographical considerations and demographics. Furthermore, different jurisdictions have different ways of defining 'truancy' and measuring attendance.

England is examined in this section as it has a range of tools to enforce attendance, such as Parenting Orders, Education Supervision Orders, School Attendance Orders and penalty notices. Since the introduction of penalty notices in England in 2004, more than 127,000 penalty notices have been issued.[footnote 70] Local authorities in England also prosecute thousands of parents each year. New Zealand is also mentioned here as it has a penalty infringement system and sets out in Regulations that attendance is to be registered every morning and every afternoon. Finland's education system is examined as Finland is often considered a world leader in education and, despite the geographical spread of its population, has in place ways to support and encourage school attendance.

England

In England, parents have a legal duty to ensure that their children attend school and local councils and schools have the following options to enforce attendance:

§ Parenting Orders (s 19 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003)

§ Education Supervision Order (s 447 of the Education Act 1996)

§ School Attendance Order (s 437 of the Education Act 1996)

§ Penalty notice (s 23 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003)

§ Prosecution

Parenting Orders are imposed by the court and require parents to attend parenting classes and to comply with any such requirements as is specified in the order.

In section 447 of the Education Act 1996 local authorities must consider applying for an Education Supervision Order (ESO) prior to prosecuting parents, however they may apply for an ESO instead of, or as well as, prosecuting parents. According to the UK Department of Education, the order 'is placed on the child and the local authority is appointed by the court to supervise that child's education either at a school or at home for a specified period of time'.[footnote 71] Some schools also employ School Home Support workers who act as 'surrogate parents', identifying pupils with low attendance records and supporting those children to eat properly, get to bed on time, do their homework, and so forth.[footnote 72]

Penalty notices are fines imposed on parents and are an alternative to prosecution of parents. They can be issued by a head teacher or someone authorised by them, a local authority officer or the police (s 23 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003). Penalty notices increased on 1 September 2012 from £50 to £60 with the Education (Penalty Notices) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2012. Further changes to the Regulations, which come into effect on 1 September 2013, reduce the timescales for paying a penalty notice which, according to the Department of Education 'brings attendance penalty notices into line with other types of penalty notices and allows local authorities to act faster on prosecutions'.[footnote 73]

Local authorities have the power to prosecute parents who fail to comply with a school attendance order (s 443 of the Education Act 1996) or fail to ensure their child's regular attendance at a school (s 444 of the Education Act 1996). The fines available to the courts if parents are found to have failed to secure the child's regular attendance (offence against s 444(1)) are a level 3 fine (of up to £1,000). If a parent is found to have known that the child is failing to attend school regularly but fails to ensure their child's attendance the fine is at a level 4 (up to £2,500) and the court can sentence them to imprisonment for up to three months.

There are statutory defences for parents to use under the Act, such as if the child was prevented from attending by reason of sickness or any unavoidable cause (s 444(3)(b), or 'on any day exclusively set apart for religious observance by the religious body to which his parent belongs' (s 444(3)(c)). There are other defences where a child has no fixed abode and the parents are engaged in a trade or business which require travelling from place to place (s 444(6)) or where the child is not within walking distance of the school and the local education authority has not made suitable arrangements to transport the child to and from school, arrange boarding accommodation or enable the child to be registered at a school nearer to his [footnote or her] home (s 444(4)).[footnote 74]

During the 2011/12 school year in England, the percentage of pupils who were classified as 'persistent absentees' was 5.2 per cent.[footnote 75] The average rate of total absence per pupil enrolment in state-funded primary schools was just over seven school days and just under nine school days in state-funded secondary schools.[footnote 76] The overall absence rate (percentage of possible sessions missed through absence) was 5.1 per cent.[footnote 77] Absence rates are 1.6 times higher for pupils living in the most deprived areas, and absence rates were highest for Traveller of Irish Heritage and Gypsy/Roma ethnic groups.[footnote 78] Illness was the most commonly reported reason for absence, which accounted for 58.3 per cent of all absences.[footnote 79]

In the year from 1 September 2011 to 31 August 2012, 41,224 penalty notices were issued by local authorities.[footnote 80] In that same year, 6361 parents were prosecuted following non-payment of penalty notices, 335 Parenting Orders were made and 20,019 Parenting Contracts were offered by local authorities to parents (with 14,659 being accepted by parents).

As noted in the Taylor Review on Improving School Attendance, in 2010 out of 9,147 parents taken to court and found guilty only 6,591 received a fine or a more serious sanction, with the average fine imposed by the court being £165. The Review noted that 'within certain groups of parents the word had spread that prosecution for bad attendance is a muddled process in which there is a good chance of getting off without sanction'.[footnote 81] Nonetheless, with regard to jail sentences for parents, The Guardian reported in 2008 that 71 parents were jailed between 2003 and 2006 for failing to stop their children from persistently avoiding school.[footnote 82]

Finland

In Finland, all levels of education, including tertiary education, are wholly government funded. The OECD report states the 'Finland's ascent into the very top tier of educational performance was by no means inevitable: it was at least as much the result of a set of policy decisions deliberately taken, implemented thoughtfully, and sustained over a very long period of time…'.[footnote 83] The OECD attributes Finland's success to a variety of factors such as:

§ Schools offering more than education, such as a daily meal, health and dental services, and counselling;

§ Support for children with special needs;

§ Learner-centred classrooms;

§ Exceptional teacher quality;[footnote 84] and

§ 'Cultural support for universal high achievement'.[footnote 85]

There are other provisions contained in Finland's Basic Education Act (628/1998) which support school attendance, including:

§ Free school equipment, materials and textbooks for all students (s 31(1))

§ A 'balanced and appropriately organised and supervised meal on every school day' for all students (s 31(2))

§ Free welfare services for all students (s 31a)

§ Free transport to school if students live more than five kilometres from the school or the journey is considered dangerous (s 32)

§ Free board and lodging in a dormitory if the daily travel time to attend school exceeds three hours (s 32).[footnote 86]

In Finland, section 25 of the Basic Education Act (628/1998) states that children permanently residing in Finland shall attend compulsory school which starts in the year during which the child turns seven and ends when the 'the basic education syllabus has been completed or ten years after the beginning of compulsory schooling'.[footnote 87] Section 26(2) states:

The education provider shall monitor the absences of a pupil in basic education and notify the pupil's parent/carer of unauthorised absence. The parent/carer of a pupil in compulsory education shall see to it that compulsory schooling is completed.

Section 26(3) states that if a child does not participate in education the local authority of the pupil's place of residence shall supervise his or her progress.

According to the United Nations Education for All 2000 Assessment report, 99.7 per cent of students complete compulsory schooling in Finland, which, the report states 'means that Finland has one of the lowest drop-out rates in the world'.[footnote 88] Finland's education system is consistently ranked among the best by the Organisation of Economic Co-ordination and Development (OECD) and Finland is often considered a world leader in education, especially following Finland's performance in the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).[footnote 89]

New Zealand

New Zealand's legislation regarding school attendance is set out in the Education Act 1989 and the Education (School Attendance) Regulations 1951. Section 31 of the Education Act 1989 provides the requirements for students, parents, boards and principals to ensure the attendance of students. Section 29 sets out penalties for irregular attendance. It states that every parent of a person who while enrolled at a registered school, does not attend, commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding an amount calculated at the rate of $30 for every school day for which the offence has occurred. Section 29(2) states that the fine shall not exceed $300 for a first offence or $3000 for a second or subsequent offence.

The Education (School Attendance) Regulations require all schools to ensure that there is accurate keeping of an admissions register and a register of daily attendance for all schools (Regulation 3). Regulation 8 specifies that 'the attendance of pupils in every school shall be recorded every morning and every afternoon…'[footnote 90]

The Ministry of Education report Attendance in New Zealand Schools 2011 states that the estimated national absence rate in 2011 is 10.2 per cent.[footnote 91] The total truancy rate (unjustified absences) is 4.0 per cent.[footnote 92] The national rate of 'frequent truants' is 1.0 per cent.[footnote 93]


Appendix 1: What is a Reasonable Excuse?

Section 2.1.3 of the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 lists the circumstances which are considered to constitute a 'reasonable excuse' for a parent to fail to comply with the duty to enrol their child in school and make sure their child attends school, or to register their child for home schooling and make sure the child receives instruction. The section states that it is a reasonable excuse if:

(a) the child has been prevented from attending school or receiving instruction because of—

(i) illness, accident, an unforeseen event or an unavoidable cause; or

(ii) a requirement to comply with another law; or

(iii) the child's absence from Victoria;

(b) there is no Government school within a prescribed distance of the child's residence and the child is receiving a distance education program through a registered school;

(c) the child is participating in education or training, or employment, or both, in accordance with an Order made by the Minister for the purposes of this paragraph;

(d) the child has been suspended or expelled from a registered school and is undertaking other educational programs provided by the Department or another registered school;

(e) the absence from school or instruction was because of the child's disobedience and was not due to any fault of the parent;

(f) the child is attending or observing a religious event or obligation as a result of a genuinely held belief of the child or a parent of the child;

(g) the child is exempted from attendance at school by the Minister under section 2.1.5.

Changes to this section proposed by the Education and Training Reform Amendment (School Attendance) Bill 2013 include the removal of 'the child's absence from Victoria' as a reasonable excuse; the provision that a principal has discretion to accept an excuse given by a parent that is outside of the reasons prescribed as reasonable excuse; and the provision that it is a reasonable excuse if the Minister has exempted the child from enrolment.[footnote 94]


References

Relevant Legislation

Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 (UK)

Basic Education Act (628/1998) (Finland)

Education Act (NT)

Education Act 1972 (SA)

Education Act 1989 (NZ)

Education Act 1990 (NSW)

Education Act 1994 (Tas)

Education Act 1996 (UK)

Education Act 2004 (ACT)

Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic)

Education (General Provisions) Act 2006 (Qld)

Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 (England)

Education (School Attendance) Regulations 1951 (NZ)

Parental Support and Responsibility Act 2008 (Qld)

School Education Act 1999 (WA)

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UK Department of Education (2013) Pupil Absence in Schools in England, Including Pupil Characteristics 2011/12, Statistical First Release 10/2013, data released 19 March 2013, viewed 29 April 2013, <https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/187519/sfr10-2013.pdf.pdf>.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (2000) 'The EFA 2000 Assessment: Country Reports', UNESCO website, viewed 30 April 2013, <http://www.unesco.org/education/wef/countryreports/finland/rapport_2.html>.

Vasager, J. (2012) 'Truancy Fines should be Deducted from Child Benefit, says Behaviour Advisor', The Guardian online, 16 April, viewed 1 May 2013, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/apr/16/truancy-fines-deducted-from-child-benefit>.

Western Australia Department of Education (2011) 'Student attendance: procedures', WA Department of Education website, viewed 29 April 2013, <http://det.wa.edu.au/policies/detcms/policy-planning-and-accountability/policies-framework/policies/attendance.en?bbp.i=d0.a.1.2.1&bbp.8.policyID=13773513&g11n.enc=UTF-8&bbp.9.pane=3&selected=2>.

Withers, G. (2004) 'Disenchantment, Disengagement, Disappearance: Some Recent Statistics and a Commentary of Non-attendance in School', Dusseldorp Skills Forum, Sydney, 23-24 June.


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[footnote 1] The value of a penalty unit at the time of writing is $140.84. See Office of the Chief Parliamentary Council (2013) 'Penalty Fees and Units', OCPC website, viewed 30 April 2013, <http://www.ocpc.vic.gov.au/CA2572B3001B894B/pages/faqs-penalty-and-fee-units>.

[footnote 2] Victoria, Legislative Assembly (2013) Debates, Book 5, 17 April, p. 1271.

[footnote 3] ibid., p. 1272.

[footnote 4] ibid.

[footnote 5] ibid.

[footnote 6] For further information on these strategies see ibid., pp. 1271-1272.

[footnote 7] ibid., p. 1272.

[footnote 8] ibid., pp. 1272-1273.

[footnote 9] ibid., p. 1273.

[footnote 10] Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (2013) School Attendance Bill Exposure Draft: Q&A, Melbourne, DEECD, p. 1. Also see L. Campbell et. al. (2012) I Just Want to Go to School: Voices of Young People Experiencing Educational Disadvantage, Good Shepherd Youth & Family Service, Jesuit Social Services and MacKillop Family Services, Melbourne, Good Shepherd, p. 15, viewed 2 May 2013, <http://www.goodshepvic.org.au/Assets/Files/I_Just_Want_To_Go_To_School_Report.pdf>.

[footnote 11] M. McGuire (2013) Positive Support, Not Punishment: Improving Student Engagement in Victorian Schools, Submission by Good Shepherd Youth & Family Service to the School Attendance Bill: Exposure Draft for Consultation, Melbourne, Good Shepherd, p. 4, viewed 30 April 2013, <http://www.goodshepvic.org.au/Assets/Files/Submission_to_school_attendance_bill_March_2013.pdf>.

Also see Auditor-General Victoria (2004) Managing School Attendance, Melbourne, VAGO, p. 15, viewed 2 May 2013, <http://download.audit.vic.gov.au/files/20041209-School-Attendance.pdf>.

[footnote 12] Auditor-General Victoria (2004) op. cit.

[footnote 13] Auditor-General Victoria (2012) Student Completion Rates, Melbourne, VAGO, p. 4, viewed 29 April 2013, <http://www.audit.vic.gov.au/publications/20121128-Students/20121128-Students.pdf>.

[footnote 14] McGuire (2013) op. cit.,p. 6.

[footnote 15] Auditor-General Victoria (2004) op. cit., p. 17.

[footnote 16] ibid.

[footnote 17] ibid.

[footnote 18] See Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (2009) Effective Schools are Engaging Schools: Student Engagement Policy Guidelines, Melbourne, DEECD, p. 17, viewed 1 May 2013, <http://www.education.vic.gov.au/Documents/school/principals/participation/segpolicy.pdf>; Also see Auditor-General Victoria (2012) op. cit. for an assessment of DEECD's performance regarding promoting student engagement and student completion rates.

[footnote 19] G. Withers (2004) 'Disenchantment, Disengagement, Disappearance: Some Recent Statistics and a Commentary of Non-attendance in School', Dusseldorp Skills Forum, Sydney, 23-24 June, pp. 21-22.

[footnote 20] Section 2.1.1 Education and Training Reform Act 2006.

[footnote 21] Section 2.1.2.

[footnote 22] Section 2.1.3.

[footnote 23] Section 2.1.2.

[footnote 24] Sections 2.1.7, 2.1.10 and 2.1.12.

[footnote 25] Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, personal communication with P. Darby, 30 April 2013.

[footnote 26] M. Dixon (2010) Vic Coalition Will Enforce Truancy Laws, Media Release, 14 June.

[footnote 27] See Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (2013) 'School Attendance Bill: Exposure Draft for Consultation', DEECD website, viewed 29 April 2013, <http://www.education.vic.gov.au/about/programs/reform/Pages/attendance.aspx>.

[footnote 28] ibid.

[footnote 29] ibid.

[footnote 30] Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (2012) Compulsory School Attendance: Procedures for Schools and School Attendance Officers, Melbourne, DEECD, p. 21.

[footnote 31] ibid.

[footnote 32] ibid., p. 23.

[footnote 33] ibid., p. 25.

[footnote 34] ibid., p. 26.

[footnote 35] ibid., pp. 26-27.

[footnote 36] ibid., p. 27. For further information on the 'official warning notice' see p. 27.

[footnote 37] ibid.

[footnote 38] McGuire (2013) op. cit.

[footnote 39] ibid., p. 4.

[footnote 40] ibid., pp. 4-5.

[footnote 41] ibid., p. 5.

[footnote 42] K. Toohey (2013) 'Submission on the Exposure Draft of the Education and Training Reform Amendment (School Attendance) Bill – March 2013', Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission website, viewed 30 April 2013, <http://www.humanrightscommission.vic.gov.au/index.php/submissions/item/573-submission-on-the-exposure-draft-education-and-training-reform-amendment-school-attendance-bill-mar-2013>.

[footnote 43] ibid., p. 2.

[footnote 44] ibid., p. 1.

[footnote 45] For further information see: ibid., pp. 2-4

[footnote 46] For further information see: ibid., pp. 4-6.

[footnote 47] Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (2013) 'National Report on Schooling

in Australia 2010', ACARA website, viewed 26 April 2012, p. 84, <http://www.acara.edu.au/reporting/national_report_on_schooling_2010/glossary/student_attendance_rates_3.html>.

[footnote 48] Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (2013) 'It's Not OK To Be Away', DEECD website, viewed 29 April 2013,

<http://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/parents/health/pages/studentattendance.aspx>.

[footnote 49] Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, personal communication with B. Lesman, 29 April 2013.

[footnote 50] Auditor-General Victoria (2004) op. cit., p. 19.

[footnote 51] See Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (2013) 'New Participation Age Requirements – Frequently Asked Questions', DEECD website, viewed 6 May 2013, <http://www.education.vic.gov.au/about/department/legislation/pages/act2006age.aspx>.

[footnote 52] Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, personal communication with B. Lesman, 29 April 2013.

[footnote 53] Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, personal communication with B. Lesman, 1 May 2013.

[footnote 54] Auditor-General Victoria (2012) op. cit.,pp. 15-16.

[footnote 55] Explanatory Memorandum to the Education and Training Reform Amendment (School Attendance) Bill 2013, p. 2.

[footnote 56] Queensland Department of Education, Training and Employment (2012) 'Exemptions from Compulsory Schooling and Compulsory Participation', Queensland DET website, viewed 24 April 2013, <http://ppr.det.qld.gov.au/education/management/Pages/Exemptions-from-Compulsory-Schooling-and-Compulsory-Participation.aspx>.

[footnote 57] Tasmania Department of Education (2012) School Attendance: Procedures, Hobart, Tasmanian DoE, p. 4, viewed 26 April 2013, <https://www.education.tas.gov.au/documentcentre/Documents/School-Attendance-Procedures.pdf>.

[footnote 58] ACT Department of Education and Training (2011) Attendance at Public Schools: Procedure, Canberra, ACT DET, viewed 26 April 2013, <http://www.det.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/311436/Attendance_at_ACT_Public_Schools.pdf>.

[footnote 59] Western Australia Department of Education (2011) 'Student Attendance: Procedures', WA Department of Education website, viewed 29 April 2013, <http://det.wa.edu.au/policies/detcms/policy-planning-and-accountability/policies-framework/policies/attendance.en?bbp.i=d0.a.1.2.1&bbp.8.policyID=13773513&g11n.enc=UTF-8&bbp.9.pane=3&selected=2>.

[footnote 60] South Australian Department of Education and Child Development (2009) Attendance Requirements, Adelaide, SA DECD, viewed 26 April 2013, <http://www.decd.sa.gov.au/docs/documents/1/AttendanceRequirements.pdf>.

[footnote 61] Northern Territory Government (2013) Every Child, Every Day: Ensuring Attendance and Participation, Darwin, Northern Territory Department of Education and Children's Services, viewed 24 April 2013, <http://www.education.nt.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/15168/EnsuringAttendanceParticipation.pdf>.

[footnote 62] Northern Territory Department of Education and Training (2011) Frequently asked questions: amendments to Part 4 of the Education Act, NT Government, Darwin, viewed 26 April 2013, <http://www.education.nt.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/18998/EducationActAmendmentsFAQs.pdf>.

[footnote 63] Northern Territory Department of Education and Children's Services (2011) Attendance and Truancy Officers Program: information sheet, NT Government, Darwin, viewed 29 April 2013, <http://www.education.nt.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/26724/AttendanceTruancyOfficersProgram.pdf>.

[footnote 64] Northern Territory, Legislative Assembly (2011) Debates, Parliamentary Record No. 18, 31 March, viewed 26 April 2013, <http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/nt/bill_srs/elab2011306/srs.html>.

[footnote 65] Queensland Department of Education, Training and Employment (date unknown) Addressing Student Absenteeism, Brisbane, Queensland DETE, p. 1, viewed 24 April 2013, <http://education.qld.gov.au/studentservices/behaviour/docs/guidelines-chronic_absenteeism.doc>.

[footnote 66] WA Department of Education (2011) op. cit.

[footnote 67] ACT Department of Education and Training (2011) Non-Compliance: Procedure, Canberra, ACT DET, viewed 26 April 2013, <http://www.det.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/263827/Non-compliance.pdf>.

[footnote 68] Tasmania Department of Education (2012), op. cit., p. 9.

[footnote 69] SA Department of Education and Child Development (2009) op. cit.

[footnote 70] J. Vasager (2012) 'Truancy Fines Should be Deducted from Child Benefit, says Behaviour Advisor', The Guardian online, 16 April, viewed 1 May 2013, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/apr/16/truancy-fines-deducted-from-child-benefit>.

[footnote 71] See also UK Department of Education (2012) Advice on School Attendance, London, UK Department of Education, viewed 26 April 2013, <http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/files/pdf/a/advice%20on%20school%20attendance%202013.pdf>.

[footnote 72] For example, see J. Shepherd (2012) 'A Kinder Way to Tackle Truancy', The Guardian online, 3 April, viewed 1 May 2013, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/apr/03/kinder-way-to-tackle-truancy>. School Home Support is a registered charity, see School Home Support Worker (2013) 'Who We Are', School Home Support website, viewed 1 May 2013, <http://www.schoolhomesupport.org.uk/index.php>.

[footnote 73] Currently, parents must pay £60 if they pay within 28 days or £120 if they pay within 42 days. From 1 September 2013, parents must pay £60 within 21 days or £120 within 28 days. These amendments also changed the granting of leave of absence for family holidays during the school term and in 'special circumstances' by head teachers. See Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 and UK Department of Education (2013) 'Amendments to School Attendance Regulations', updated 15 April, Department of Education website, viewed 26 April 2013, <http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/pupilsupport/behaviour/attendance/a00223868/regulations-amendments>.

[footnote 74] 'Walking distance' is defined as two miles (or 3.218688kms) in relation to a child who is under the age or eight and three miles (4.828032kms) in relation to a child who has attained the age of eight (s 444(5)).

[footnote 75] 'Persistent absentees' are defined as having missed around 15 per cent or more of classes, with the rate of overall absence of persistent absentees being 24.7 per cent. UK Department of Education (2013) Pupil Absence in Schools in England, Including Pupil Characteristics 2011/12, Statistical First Release 10/2013, data released 19 March 2013, viewed 29 April 2013, <https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/187519/sfr10-2013.pdf.pdf>.

[footnote 76] ibid.

[footnote 77] ibid, p. 3, see also Table 1.1.

[footnote 78] ibid, pp. 3-4.

[footnote 79] Refer to Table 2.1 on page 17 for more information on the distribution of reasons for absences. ibid.

[footnote 80] See UK Department of Education (2013) 'Parental Responsibility Data', 19 March, Department of Education website, viewed 1 May 2013, <http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/pupilsupport/behaviour/parents/a0010302/parental-responsibility-data>.

[footnote 81] C. Taylor (2012) Improving School Attendance, London, UK Department of Education, viewed 1 May 2013, <http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/files/pdf/t/improving%20attendance%20at%20school.pdf>.

[footnote 82] J. Shepherd (2008) Truancy: Number of Parents Jailed Trebles, The Guardian online, 27 November, viewed 1 May 2013, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2008/nov/27/truancy-absent-school>.

[footnote 83] See OECD (2011) Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education: Lessons from PISA for the United States, OECD Publishing, pp. 117-132, viewed 24 April 2013, <http://www.oecd.org/pisa/46623978.pdf>.

[footnote 84] Teaching is 'the single most desirable career choice among Finns', it is a highly respected profession, teachers must have a Masters degree and the profession is highly competitive. See OECD (2011) op. cit., p. 129.

[footnote 85] OECD (2011) op. cit., pp. 129-130.

[footnote 86] See also Finnish National Board of Education (2012) 'Basic Education', updated 2 April 2012, Finnish National Board of Education website, viewed 24 April 2013, <http://www.oph.fi/english/education/basic_education>.

[footnote 87] Section 26(1) states that 'a child of compulsory school age must attend basic education provided in accordance with this Act or otherwise obtain knowledge corresponding to the basic education syllabus'.

[footnote 88] United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (2000) 'The EFA 2000 Assessment: Country Reports', UNESCO website, viewed 30 April 2013, <http://www.unesco.org/education/wef/countryreports/finland/rapport_2.html>.

[footnote 89] PISA is an international test of 15-year-old students' performance in reading, maths and science. PISA was launched in 1997 to help government evaluate educational systems worldwide. See OECD (2013) 'About PISA', OECD website, viewed 30 April 2013, <http://www.oecd.org/pisa/aboutpisa/>. For example, see the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) Report at: OECD (2010) PISA 2009 at a Glance, OECD Publishing, viewed 24 April 2013, <http://www.oecd.org/pisa/46660259.pdf>.

[footnote 90] In addition to legislation and regulations, New Zealand's National Administrative Guidelines (NAGs) outlines the responsibilities that each (school) board of trustees to encourage student engagement, achievement and attendance.

[footnote 91] This data has been compiled from the schools that responded to the invitation to participate in the attendance survey, the response rate was 88 per cent of the 2470 state and state integrated schools invited to participate. T. Ryan & M. Loader (2012) Attendance in New Zealand Schools 2011, February, Wellington, NZ Ministry of Education, viewed 30 April 2013, <http://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/107056/Attendance-in-NZ-Schools-2011.pdf>.

[footnote 92] The report defines 'unjustified absences' as absences which are not explained, or not explained to the satisfaction of the school. ibid., p. 5.

[footnote 93] 'Frequent truants' refers to students who were unjustifiably absent from school at least three times during the week in which the survey was held. The overall frequent truant rate is higher in Maori (1.8 per cent) and Pasifika (1.4 per cent) students. ibid., pp. 7, 12.

[footnote 94] Explanatory Memorandum to the Education and Training Reform Amendment (School Attendance) Bill 2013, p. 2.