A new Education and Children’s Services Bill will be introduced into Parliament this week, which will include measures to increase the Government’s powers to deal with chronic absenteeism in schools.
The introduction of the Bill was an election commitment of the Marshall Liberal Government, and has been delivered within 100 days of government as promised.
“Students who are chronically absent from school have lower educational outcomes and are more likely to be vulnerable or at risk,” said Education Minister John Gardner.
“By ensuring our children are in school, we will see stronger school communities and better educated children – that’s why tackling truancy is such a high priority for the Marshall Liberal Government.
“While the overwhelming majority of South Australian parents do the right thing by their children, unfortunately not all parents place sufficient importance on getting their children to school and ensuring they get their best start in life.
“Parents must take responsibility for their children’s education and we owe it to our children and young people to take decisive action.”
The proposed amendments to the Education Act include provisions for formal family conferences to be held with principals and relevant officers, allowing students and their families to work with schools to address whatever issues need to be dealt with to ensure attendance.
In circumstances where a family is unwilling to engage with the family conference approach, a legal response may be necessary.
The Bill increases the maximum fine for parents who allow their children to be chronically absent to $5000, ensuring that legal responses are taken seriously.
Unlike the former Labor Government’s proposal prior to the election, this Bill does not include provisions to implement parking fine-style expiable offences.
“We believe that the former Labor government’s proposal of expiation notices for non-attendance would have been a blunt and ineffective instrument – too easy to apply to families for whom it was unnecessary and inappropriate, and potentially a significant financial burden on families who might be making a genuine effort,” Minister Gardner said.
Chronic truancy does not apply if the child is:
- sick or in danger of infection
- reasonably required to care for a family member; or
- the responsible person informs the school of the child’s absence within five days.