Dealing with concerns about school attendance

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Keep in touch with your child’s teachers, and talk to them if your child misses school. Make sure you know your child’s rights, and get help, if they are suspended or face being expelled.

Attendance makes a difference

Regular school attendance is important. By making sure your child gets to school, you are giving them more choices in life, and a chance to achieve their dreams. Regular attendance helps your child to feel like a part of their class and their school community. It helps them make friends, play and just enjoy being a kid. If they can get help to achieve their best, it builds their self-esteem, and helps them learn to speak up for themselves.

If your child has to be away

Children sometimes have to be away from school. The family might have to travel for Sorry Business, or your child might have hospital stays, or medical or therapy appointments. Let the school know when and for how long your child will be away, so they can plan how to support them and help them catch up when they’re back. Sometimes a school can help your child keep up with their schoolwork, if they’re in hospital or at home recovering for a long time.

If your child is unhappy at school

Your child might refuse or skip school if they’re having a hard time. They might be feeling bullied or left out, uncomfortable if their culture is not understood, or frustrated if they aren’t getting the right help to learn. Some children muck up when this happens, and some just give up.

If a child is unhappy at school, parents or carers might want to keep them home sometimes. If children get in trouble, or if they feel ignored, it might remind parents or carers of their own experiences, as Aunty Faye says.

Children do sometimes have a hard time at school, but they also have more rights than in times gone by. And you can get more help to make sure that their rights are respected, and that they get the help they need at school.

If you find it hard to get them to school

Sometimes children miss school because of things happening at home. Children – especially those with special needs –benefit from an organised routine at home and at school. They benefit from being at school every day. Sometimes, pressures on families might make it hard to get organised to get children to school. The family might have very low funds, making it hard to cover uniforms, lunch or transport. They might be experiencing issues with grief and loss, housing, health or mental health problems, drugs or alcohol, family violence or child protection.

We acknowledge that the role of government and welfare policies, such as those that led to the Stolen Generations, in creating intergenerational trauma and loss that impacts on these experiences for many in community.

If you’re having a hard time, it’s important to get help for yourself and for your child, so they can have their special needs supported and be at school.

Early pick-ups and part-time attendance

Sometimes, a school might ring the parent or carer and ask them to pick their child up early. Your child might need to come home early sometimes, if they are unwell or very upset. But this should not happen often, and never because of behavioural issues. Sometimes families might feel pressure to bring their child to school part-time. This is not allowed. Unless there are special medical reasons, the education department says that all children must be in school full time.

Suspension and expulsion

The education department tells school how to respond positively to behavioural issues. As much as possible, schools should encourage children to behave well, rather than punish them. All children muck up for a reason. For example, if a child with special needs isn’t getting the right help, they might get frustrated or embarrassed and muck up, or walk out. The school has to work with you, to figure out how to help your child.

Suspensions and expulsions must only be used in extreme cases, and only if the school has tried every other way to deal with the behaviour. Schools must not expel a child with special needs unless they have made all reasonable adjustments that will encourage positive behaviour. Your child’s school must meet with you if a suspension or expulsion is likely, and ensure a Koorie Education Support Officer is available to help you, if you want. Your child has rights, and you can appeal against an expulsion. If you are in this situation, you can get help from a support person, such as a disability or community advocate.