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School operations

Attendance

3  School support for full attendance

Victorian government schools are required to provide active support (including targeted responses and effective intervention strategies) for full student attendance and retention until the completion of Year 12 or its equivalent and respond to individual student circumstances when regular attendance is not consistent.

Whilst ensuring student attendance at school is a legal obligation of parents, supporting students to attend school each day is the shared responsibility of all parents, students, the school and the wider community.

This responsibility should be underpinned by shared understandings and expectations about the procedures for the promotion, monitoring and follow-up of student attendance.

All government schools are required to develop a Student Engagement Policy which articulates the school community's shared expectations in the areas of student engagement, attendance and behaviour, and outlines a series of processes, actions and consequences when regular attendance is not consistent.

Whole-school strategies to promote attendance

Whole-school strategies and clear understandings of processes are important for promoting attendance. Principals and all school staff play an important role in developing and reinforcing clear understandings of the shared expectations for attendance amongst schools, students and parents.

Principals are responsible for communicating these expectations to parents and students when they enrol at the school, and for regularly communicating with all parents about attendance issues.

Schools can promote and maintain high levels of student attendance and participation through developing whole school strategies. A clear whole-school strategy should:

  • articulate high expectations to all members of the school community by:
    • regularly communicating with parents about expectations for attendance
    • promoting awareness that absence results in quantifiable lost learning time and opportunities
    • modelling punctuality across the whole school
  • create safe, supportive learning environments where all students experience success through active participation and engagement in purposeful learning by:
    • developing collaborative and empowering relationships between teachers, students and parents
    • implementing effective and supportive transition programs, including student transitions between different learning areas and levels within the school, and pathways and careers support programs
    • developing class and home group structures and environments that enable opportunities for increased connectedness to individual teachers and peers
    • encouraging parents to get involved in the life of the school
    • immediately following-up any problems identified by students and parents in a transparent manner
  • adopt consistent, rigorous procedures to monitor and record student absence by:
    • immediately following-up individual student absences
    • correctly using student attendance data management systems (e.g. CASES21, eCASES)
    • delegating responsibilities to all staff, with a key member of staff leading attendance improvement initiatives
  • implement data-driven attendance improvement strategies, for example:
    • monitoring and analysing school attendance records regularly and using tools for early identification of students at risk of poor attendance (such as the Student Mapping Tool)
    • regularly discussing student attendance records in staff meetings and in the staff performance and development review process
  • provide early identification of and supportive intervention for students at risk of poor attendance by:
    • understanding the causal factors of absence and the need for targeted interventions
    • providing out-of-school programs, including breakfast, homework and walking bus clubs
    • utilising the Student Mapping Tool or similar early identification strategy
  • link with local community groups and agencies to maximise program and individual support by:
    • collaborating with other schools, community groups and agencies
  • access specialist support for individual students with identified behavioural, health, or social issues by:
    • utilising Student Support Services or external community services where appropriate
  • provide a staged response to non-attendance by:
    • focusing on prevention and early intervention by creating a positive school culture
    • intervening and providing targeted responses for individual students
  • support students to return to school after absences through:
    • setting individual student attendance goals and data-driven improvement plans
    • formal procedures for supporting the learning of a student absent for an extended period
    • positive and flexible support and follow-up with students on their return to school, including the use of Return to School Plans and modification of learning outcomes where required

School-based wellbeing workforces

Student wellbeing staff can assist to address attendance issues, particularly if they participate in teams to develop policies and strategies to optimise attendance and to prevent student disengagement.

Student Support Services

Student Support Services are available in Victorian Government schools to assist children and young people, facing a range of barriers to learning, to achieve their educational and developmental potential through the provision of strategies and specialised support at individual, group, school and network levels.

Student Support Services comprise a broad range of professionals including psychologists, guidance officers, speech pathologists, social workers and visiting teachers. Student Support Services officers work as part of an integrated health and wellbeing team within networks of schools, focusing on providing group based and individual support, workforce capacity building and specialised services.

Koorie Engagement Support Officers

Koorie Engagement Support Officers assist in building communication links with parents to facilitate an increased awareness of school policy, encourage greater communication between parents and teachers and promote more parental involvement in school community activities and school decision making.

They can also provide expert advice to school communities and kindergartens about models of effective support for Koorie children and young people.

Primary Welfare Officers

The Primary Welfare Officer initiative is designed to enhance the capacity of schools to develop positive school cultures and to support students who are at risk of disengaging and not achieving their educational potential.

Primary Welfare Officers promote a whole school approach to health and wellbeing within the school community and work in collaboration with students and parents, school staff including principals, teachers, aides, specialist staff, nurses and Student Support Services officers and with broader community agencies. Eligible schools are provided with funding to employ a Primary Welfare Officer, which may be an existing staff member, or new staff member.

Student Welfare Coordinators

Student Welfare Coordinators work with other welfare professionals and agencies to address student needs. The role of the student welfare coordinator (SWC) is vital in responding to the needs of Victoria's young people. They are responsible for helping students handle issues such as truancy, bullying, drug use and depression.

Community partnerships

Community expectations can play a significant role in school attendance. Linking to the local community can give schools access to an extended network of community members and encourage and promote school attendance by presenting a consistent message to young people.

Young people with a meaningful connection to a particular community tend to be more resilient when facing issues such as school and family stress. Partnerships between schools and community-based service providers can enable more streamlined and efficient delivery of services to vulnerable students.

Partnerships via school networks and community service provider networks are an important way for schools to assist students at risk of disengagement from education and non-attendance by sharing approaches and resources.

Chapter 3 of the Attendance Guidelines on how schools support full time student attendance, including adopting a whole of school approach

Reviewed 28 May 2020

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