1.        Purpose of this policy

 

  • EdSpace is committed to ensuring the school, students and their parents[1] comply with their legal obligations in relation to school attendance. The school believes that high levels of school attendance are essential for learning.

 

  • The attendance policy sets out the principles and framework governing the school’s behaviours and activities that enact the school’s legal responsibilities and which support students in attending school. The policy, together with the policy implementation documents listed in section 10, should be read and understood by all those connected to the school.

 

 

2.        Principles

 

  • The school places a high priority on student attendance in the belief that attendance is essential for learning.

 

  • The school understands that attendance is impacted by the partnership that is formed between the family and the school.

 

  • The school keeps and retains accurate records of school attendance that comply with its regulatory requirements.

 

  • The school, in discharging its duty of care, is committed to ensuring unexplained and unexcused absence is communicated promptly and followed up with students and parents.

 

 

3         Aims of the policy

 

  • To encourage and set high expectations in relation to attendance.

 

  • To eliminate unexplained or unexcused absence.

 

  • To develop strong partnerships with parents and carers in which the importance of attendance and punctuality is a shared goal.

 

  • To comply with the requirements of Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic.), to monitor attendance, to maintain an attendance register and to report on attendance data to parents and to the authorities as required.

 

 

4         Legal and regulatory basis for compliance

 

  • Duty of Care

 

  • Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic.)

 

  • Education and Training Reform Regulations (2007)

 

  • Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA) Minimum Standards

 

  • Victorian Government Department of Education and Training’s (Vic DET) School Attendance 2014 Guidelines – applies to all registered schools in Victoria, including non-government schools[2]

 

  • Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA).

 

 

5         Key definitions

 

  • The enrolment register records the students admitted to the school. The school is required to maintain an enrolment register that is accurate, up-to-date and contains the information required by the minimum standard. The school is also required to implement processes and procedures to ensure the register is up to date.[3] The enrolment register determines those students for whom attendance must be registered and monitored.

 

  • Children of compulsory school age (six years and up to the age of seventeen years) resident in Victoria are required to be in full-time attendance at school or in registered home schooling.[4]

 

  • Under certain limited conditions, parents may apply for an exemption from attendance.[5]

 

  • The attendance register is the record of the attendance of all students. The school is required to record the attendance at the school [of any student of compulsory school age] [of all enrolled students] at least twice on each school day and to note any reason given or apparent for the absence of the student from the school.

 

  • In addition, the school must monitor the daily attendance[6] of each student, identify absences of a student from school including classes, follow up any unexplained absences from school or from classes, notify parents regarding a student’s unsatisfactory school or class attendance and record any unsatisfactory school or class attendance on the student’s file.

 

  • The School Attendance 2014 Guidelines state that attendances and absences must be recorded on a half-day basis (primary schools) and for every class (secondary schools) and the reason given or apparent for the absence of the student from the school must be noted.[7]

 

  • A student is present for a half day when the student has attended at least two hours of instruction.

 

  • There is no legal definition of lateness.

 

  • Principals are able to use their discretion to decide if the parent has a reasonable excuse for not meeting their legal obligations (‘excused absence’) or does not have a reasonable excuse (‘unexcused absence’).

 

  • Vic DET’s Regional Directors act as School Attendance Officers for all Victorian schools, including non-government schools.

 

  • A School Attendance Officer may decide to send a School Attendance Notice to a parent if the student has been absent from school on at least five full days in the previous 12 months and the parent has not provided a reasonable excuse for these absences and if measures to improve the student’s attendance have been undertaken and been unsuccessful, or are inappropriate in the circumstances

 

  • The VCAA states that the school must determine attendance requirements for VCE and VCAL students.

 

  • The Annual Report to the School Community[8] must include a report on student attendance.

 

  • The Australian Education Regulation 2013 (s.37) requires student enrolment and attendance records to be retained for seven years[9] after end of school year in which the last entry was made. Student attendance records may be audited by either state or commonwealth authorities in order for the authorities to monitor payments made on the basis of student numbers or on the basis of particular categories of students.

 

  • Records of enrolment and attendance are required for annual data returns for the Australian Government non-government schools[10] and the Victorian school census under Australian Education Regulation 2013 (s.77)

 

 

 

6         Scope

 

  • The application of the policy is relevant to the governing board, principal, to school staff, students and parents.

 

 

7         Roles and responsibilities

 

  • The governing board is responsible for authorising the attendance policy.

 

  • The principal is responsible for ensuring that the school complies with the School Attendance 2014 guidelines as set out by Vic DET and which apply to all registered schools, including non-government schools.[11]

 

  • The principal is responsible for:
  1. developing strategies that ensure the culture of the school is one in which attendance is given high priority
  2. developing strong partnerships with families so that the importance of school attendance is a shared commitment.

 

  • The principal is responsible for:

 

  1. Ensuring that an attendance register is maintained that accurately records [student attendance twice per day (primary schools)] [student attendance in every class (secondary schools)].
  2. Defining what constitutes lateness and how that will be monitored.
  3. Implementing procedures to record the reason (if any) given by a parent for a child’s absence and for determining if the excuse given was reasonable in terms of the parent meeting their legal obligations.
  4. Use their discretion whilst following the guidelines as set out in the school’s attendance procedures to decide if the parent has a reasonable excuse for not meeting their legal obligations (‘excused absence’) or does not have a reasonable excuse (‘unexcused absence’).
  5. Determining the attendance requirements for VCAL students.

 

  • The principal is responsible for:

 

  1. Ensuring procedures are implemented so that parents are promptly informed of any absence, including absence from any school-approved activity.
  2. Notifying parents if the principal’s decision is that the reason for the student’s absence is an unexcused absence.
  3. Ensuring procedures are in place to follow up all unexplained absences.
  4. Ensuring accurate and comprehensive records are kept of contacts and attempted contacts between the school and parents following an unexplained absence.

 

  • The principal is responsible for developing strategies to respond to poor attendance, persistent absenteeism and school refusal.

 

  • The principal is responsible for ensuring the school has clear requirements, guidelines and procedures relating to long, frequent or repeated family holidays.

 

  • The principal is responsible for ensuring school attendance data is regularly monitored and analysed to identify student absence patterns on a school, class and individual basis.

 

  • The principal is responsible for:

 

  1. Advising parents when an exemption from attendance may be required and supporting parents to apply for the exemption.
  2. Referring concerns about a student with persistent unexplained absence to the School Attendance Officer.

 

  1. Ensuring the attendance register is capable of providing evidence for any enforcement proceedings, including the issuing of an Infringement Notice (and any appeal) and court proceedings if it appears a parent may not have met their legal obligations to ensure their child attends school.

 

  • The principal is responsible for ensuring the school reports student attendance to the school community at least once a year.

 

  • Parents are responsible for ensuring their child attends school. If their child is absent from school for all or part of a school day, parents are required to provide an explanation for their child's absence.

 

  • Teaching staff, including Casual Relief Teaching staff, and staff leading school-approved activities are responsible for keeping accurate and timely attendance records following the school’s procedures.

 

 

8         Links to other policies

 

  • Duty of Care

 

  • Enrolment Policy

 

  • Student Wellbeing Policy

 

  • Record Management Policy (including Archiving Policy).

 

 

9         Communication of the policy

 

  • From time to time, the school will make public statements to demonstrate its commitment to the importance of high levels of attendance and the role that parents play in supporting the school in reaching this goal.

 

  • The school will publish guidelines for parents as to the circumstances under which the reason given for an absence from school is considered reasonable or not and in which the principal is likely to judge the absence excused or unexcused.[12]

 

 

  • Policy implementation documents

 

  • The documents[13] setting out the strategies and actions required to implement this policy are:

 

  1. appendix setting out decisions as to the different types of absence and their recording
  2. detailed procedures for recording attendance, absence, lateness and the reasons given
  3. procedures for following up and monitoring attendance and absence
  4. guidance for parents regarding attendance and absence
  5. attendance and Absence for VCE and VCAL students.

 

11      Policy review

 

  • The governing board will review the Attendance Policy [

 

  • The governing board will require the principal to report on the implementation of the Attendance Policy as part of the board’s discussion of its Annual Report to the School Community.

 

 

Appendix A: Common reasons for absences[14]

 

This table is taken directly from Vic DET’s School Attendance Guidelines that apply to all Victorian schools, including non-government schools. Schools are advised to tailor this table to their needs as appropriate. Schools should also create a methodology for staff to enter reasons quickly and easily, for example, by using a set of abbreviations such as M = medical/dental

 

 

 

 

Parent approval required

School required to confirm reason is authentic

Reasonable excuse for parent

General advice for principals

Basis in ETR Act for reasonable excuse

Follow up required

Illness or accident

Yes

No

Yes

N/A

2.1.3(a)(i)

No

Medical/dental appointment

Yes

Yes

Yes

Approve if appointment cannot be scheduled outside school hours

2.1.3(fa)

No, unless absences become excessive

Attending or observing a religious event or obligation

Yes

No

Yes

N/A

2.1.3(f)

No

Suspended

No

Yes

Yes

N/A

2.1.3(d)

Yes (suspension guidelines)

Bereavement such as a death of a family member, attendance at a funeral and/or related mourning activities (sorry business)

Yes

Yes

Requires principal to approve

Approve

2.1.3(fa)

Offer and provide support as required

Truancy

No

Yes

Yes

N/A

2.1.3(e)

Meetings, Attendance Improvement Plan

School refusal

Yes

Yes

Requires principal to approve

Approve if parents and school are working on plan to address cause

2.1.3(fa)

Yes – meetings to identify and address the cause

Family holiday

Yes

Yes

Requires principal to approve

Approve if parents notify in advance. School policy should be developed for long or frequent/ repeated holidays

2.1.3(fa)

Student Absence Learning Plans developed in conjunction with classroom teachers

Required to comply with another law

Yes

No

Yes

N/A

2.1.3(a)(ii)

No, unless absences become excessive. Offer and provide support as required

Cultural observance

Yes

Yes

Requires principal to approve

Approve if parent notifies in advance

2.1.3(fa)

No

Leisure (shopping, visiting relatives)

Yes

Yes

Requires principal to approve

Do not approve

2.1.3(fa)

No

Unforeseen event

Yes

Yes

Yes

Approve if satisfied event was unforeseen and prevented attendance

2.1.3(a)(i)

No

Unavoidable cause

Yes

Yes

Yes

Approve if satisfied event was unforeseen and prevented attendance

2.1.3(a)(i)

No

Other – special event or participation in elite sporting events/training

Yes

Yes

Requires principal to approve

Case-by-case basis

2.1.3(fa)

No

Exemption

No

No

Yes

N/A

2.1.3(g)

Ensure any conditions of exemption are met. Monitor attendance at other provider

Employment in the entertainment industry

Yes

Yes (through approving exemption)

Yes

N/A

2.1.3(g)

Yes, to ensure conditions of exemption are complied with

[1] The term ‘parent’ is defined in the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 as ‘a guardian and every person who has parental responsibility for the child including parental responsibility under the Family Law Act of the Commonwealth and any person with whom a child normally or regularly resides’.

[2] These guidelines, explicitly applicable to non-government schools, go further than the VRQA minimum standards and the Education and Training Reform Regulations (2007).

[3] VRQA minimum standards.

[4] Non-government schools are advised to monitor the attendance of all students enrolled in the school regardless of their age.

[5] Non-government schools are advised to follow Vic DET’s procedures as set out in the School Policy and Advisory Guide http://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/principals/spag/participation/Pages/participation.aspx (Accessed 20 July 2017)

[6] Note: The Education and Training Reform Act Regulations 2007 distinguishes between the monitoring of attendance and the attendance register. Attendance must be recorded on the register twice daily; in addition attendance must be monitored by class for all students of compulsory age. Schools may find it helpful to have clearly separate procedures for these two functions.

[7] Given the propensity for confusion between the regulations and guidance, non-government schools may decide to record daily attendance and attendance by class in an attendance register; the attendance register can then be used as both a record and as the basis for a monitoring tool.

[8] As required to meet Commonwealth and State legislative requirements

[9] https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2013L01476 (Accessed 20 July 2017)

[10] https://ssphelp.education.gov.au/sites/ssphelp/files/files/final_2016_census_guidelines_1.pdf (Accessed 20 July 2017)

[11] http://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/teachers/studentmanagement/Pages/attendance.aspx (Accessed 20 July 2017)

[12] The school may choose to follow Vic DET’s guidelines http://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/teachers/studentmanagement/Pages/managingabsence.aspx (Accessed 20 July 2017)

[13] Each school must develop its own implementation strategies and associated documentation. This list is for guidance only.

[14] http://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/teachers/studentmanagement/Pages/managingabsence.aspx (Accessed 20 July 2017)