TRUANCY - KEEPING OUR CHILDREN IN SCHOOL

If elected in 2018, a Marshall Liberal Government will implement a number of policy measures to combat chronic truancy in our schools.

Truancy in South Australia

There is no more important factor in the future of a child than their education. It is what allows them to grow, make friends, and realise their career ambitions once they leave school.

Unfortunately, not all parents place much importance on ensuring that their children get the best start in life. Children that are chronically truant have lower education outcomes and are more likely to be vulnerable or at risk.

Children who frequently miss school are also less likely to access support from their school communities. They are not only missing lessons, they are missing the opportunity to get support from their teachers and peers.

School truancy was identified in the Nyland Royal Commission and earlier child protection inquiries as an important indicator that a child may be at risk.

Five days away per term over a child’s whole education adds up to more than a year of missed schooling.

Under the Education Act 1972 (SA) a child of “compulsory school or education age who is habitually or frequently absent from school or an approved learning program without a valid excuse is guilty of truancy.” A child of school age who is persistently absent from school without a satisfactory explanation is also regarded as being ‘at risk’ under the Children’s Protection Act 1993 (SA).

Chronic truancy does not mean having a few sick days or attending a family holiday and missing the end of the term. In South Australia, habitual non-attendance means a child has 5 or more absences per term, whilst chronic nonattendance means a child is absent for 10 days or more per term.

Chronically truant children are the students who are at most at risk, and who most need the support of their school communities.

At the moment, parents in SA who allow their children to be chronically truant are able to be fined up to $500. However very few parents, if any, are ever prosecuted. This means that there is no legal incentive for lax parents to abide by the law and ensure their children get to school.

In other States the penalties for parents who do not ensure that their children regularly attend school are much higher; for example, in NSW the maximum fine is $11,000, and in the NT fines for parents start at $2,115.

The State Liberals' Plan

If elected in 2018, a Marshall Liberal Government will implement a number of policy measures to combat chronic truancy in our schools.

We will:
• Amend the Education Act to increase the maximum fine for parents who allow their children to be chronically truant from $500 to $2000;
• Amend the Education Act to increase the fine for hindering or obstructing officers in identifying children not at school from $5000 to $7500;
• Audit all public schools’ attendance policies to ensure that they meet minimum standards;
• Audit all children in care who are on reduced hours of attendance at school and reengage them in mainstream education, as recommended by Justice Nyland;
• Increase the number of Education Department truancy officers by 50 percent; and,
• Enforce the powers under Section 76 and 78 of the Education Act to prosecute parents who make no attempts to keep their children in school, or who obstruct officers in identifying their children as truant.

We need to make sure that parents take responsibility for their children’s education. It is unfortunate that some parents require the threat of legal action to make them to do the right thing, but we owe it to their children to take decisive action.

The overwhelming majority of South Australian parents do the right thing by their children every school day. We need to ensure that no children are disadvantaged by parents who do not place the appropriate importance on education.

By keeping our kids in school longer, we will see stronger school communities and better educated children. We will also be taking the vital first steps needed to protect our most vulnerable young people.

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