27 parents charged over school absences

THE number of Queensland students ditching school for a week or more has soared with the Easter long weekend and ANZAC Day public holiday blamed for the spike

In the first semester this year, 16,406 students recorded five or more consecutive days of unauthorised or unexplained absences, up from 16,117 in 2018 and just 13,624 in 2017.

Throughout the year, 212,039 students had unauthorised or unexplained absence in 2017, 217,379 in 2018 and 209,074 in 2019.

Queensland police reveal 27 parents or guardians were charged over the absences this year alone, the same as 2018 and up from 17 people in 2017.

A Department of Education spokesperson said only after substantial effort has been made to work with parents regarding their child's attendance are cases referred to police for prosecution, which is seen as a last resort.

It is understood that the increased absences in Semester One 2019 may be caused by families extending holidays around the Easter long weekend and ANZAC Day public holiday.

The spokesperson said the Queensland attendance rate for state school students was more than 90 per cent, with schools working with families and communities to ensure attendance.

"Students are expected to attend all day on every school day, and parents have a legal obligation to ensure this happens unless they have a reasonable excuse," they said.

"Poor school attendance is associated with; lower academic achievement, including literacy and numeracy; early school leaving and leaving school with fewer qualifications and increased alcohol, tobacco, and substance use in adolescents."

Opposition education spokesman Jarrod Bleijie.
Opposition education spokesman Jarrod Bleijie.

LNP Shadow Minister for Education Jarrod Bleijie called on the Labor Government to crack down on truancy and review school holiday periods to encourage attendance.

"With declining NAPLAN results the Palaszczuk Government should be working with parents to improve school attendance and academic results."

Queensland Teachers' Union president Kevin Bates said attendance every day was important for vital learning and teachers' workload.

"We urge people to make sure when their child is absent they provide an explanation so our system doesn't spend valuable resources chasing up a reason," he said.

"When you have a number of students absent on a day it creates a greater workload because teachers get caught in a cycle of catching students up on the work they missed, it doubles the workload."

Queensland Secondary Principals Association Mark Breckenridge. Picture: Josh Woning
Queensland Secondary Principals Association Mark Breckenridge. Picture: Josh Woning

Queensland Secondary Principals Association Mark Breckenridge said schools worked with families and communities to build a culture of regular attendance but families needed to reinforce the habit.

"As well as a platform for learning success, attending school each and every day helps to build important life skills such as resilience and commitment," he said.

He said schools work closely with parents and caregivers to address absences, and identifying issues behind non-attendance can be difficult with guidance counsellors playing a key role.