The Senate committee examining the Inquiry into school refusal, requested ACSSO participate in public hearings in Canberra this month. ACSSO CEO, Dianne Giblin AM and ACTP&C EO, Veronica Elliott appeared for ACSSO last Wednesday.
According to the presentations at the hearing, there is a lack of data to assess the magnitude and depth of the issue. The federal education department's acting deputy secretary of schools told the enquiry that attendance has been falling for many years and that indicators such as achievement rates and retention rates point in a direction but don't explain why students aren't showing up.
To collect data, parents and caregivers must report their child's absence to their school, but the only alternatives are "parent choice", "medical", or "truancy". Students who leave school early or work shorter days are not documented, making it difficult to detect and analyse their effects if the data is not disaggregated.
A set of national absence codes was recommended to the inquiry as an option to help schools and systems understand the true nature and extent of the issue. Along with other organisations, we also made representation for the change of language from school refusal to school avoidance or school can’t. We reiterated to the inquiry that the reasons why children experience difficulties attending are complex and can be related to learning difficulties, social anxiety, mental health issues, family problems or negative school experiences.
The development of the next national school reform agreement will provide an opportunity to study what can be done in collaboration with states and territories, improve data, gain a better understanding of why children are unable to attend or avoid school, and help create a learning environment that accommodates all children.
The process of developing the next national school reform agreement will give an opportunity to study what can be done in conjunction with states and territories, improve data, and create a learning environment that accommodates all children. Gain a better understanding of why children are unable to attend or avoid school.
We strongly advocated, as did the South Australian commissioner for children and young people, that structural reforms are required to guarantee that education systems and other systems throughout Australia fulfil the needs of all children. ACSSO advocated for more flexibility in catering to individual children, hybrid online learning approaches, and more meaningful family engagement. We also contended that if students are not ready to learn, nothing else will occur.
ACSSO's submission to the Inquiry can be found HERE.
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