School operations

International Student Program (ISP)

7. Supporting students – learning and engagement

This section covers: general learning and welfare support, attendance (including student leave), course progress and learning support, modes of study, changes to study program.


International students may need learning, English language or welfare support as they adjust to new ways of learning and new environments even though they have been assessed as having the necessary academic background and English language proficiency for enrolment in their current studies. Schools need to identify the learning needs of each international student and provide reasonable support to help them adjust and overcome learning difficulties that may arise from time to time. Schools should also be vigilant with respect to the mental health and other welfare needs of international students, and offer reasonable support to help students overcome any difficulties that may affect their learning or engagement in school.

International students are granted a student visa for the sole purpose of studying in Australia. The integrity of the student visa system is protected by student visa conditions which require students to achieve satisfactory attendance (attend at least 80% of scheduled classes each term) and achieve satisfactory course progress in each semester. The National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2018 (Cth) (the National Code)External Link supports the integrity of the student visa system by restricting international school students’ participation in online learning and VET studies. Schools and DE International Education Division (IED) share the responsibility and need to work together to:

  1. ensure international students participate in face to face study where ever possible
  2. limit online learning to subjects where face to face learning is not available and there are no other study options
  3. monitor students’ attendance and course progress
  4. support students to meet attendance and course progress requirements, and
  5. report any students who can’t meet these conditions to the Department of Home Affairs (DHA).

Important requirements

Learning and welfare support

  • Schools must offer reasonable support to international students to enable them to achieve expected learning outcomes regardless of their place of study or mode of study. This includes both learning and welfare support.
  • Schools must designate a member of staff to be the official point of contact for international students.
  • Schools must have sufficient support staff to meet the needs of enrolled overseas students. Implicit in this requirement, is the need for schools to ensure they can identify and understand the needs of both individual international students and the international student cohort as a whole.
  • Schools must ensure that staff engaged directly with international students are aware of their obligations under the Education Services for Overseas Student’s Act 2000 (Cth) (ESOS Act). This means staff must participate in regular PDP and training sessions offered by both the school and DE (IED).

Attendance (including student leave)

Legislated attendance requirements:

  • Visa conditions require an international student to attend at least 80 per cent of scheduled school contact hours each term to achieve satisfactory attendance. However, the department policy is for students to attend all scheduled school hours (attend school on every school day).
  • Student attendance is calculated using a count-down method and is calculated on a per term basis. This means that students start at 100% attendance, and every day of absence (per the ISP Attendance Policy) reduces the attendance percentage. In a 10 week (50 school day) term, one day's absence reduces the attendance percentage by 2%.
  • Students who do not meet the 80% attendance requirement, even if they have approved absences, must be reported to DHA.
  • DE (IED) will consider evidence of compassionate or compelling circumstances before reporting students who have fallen below the 80% threshold (but where the student’s attendance is above 70%) but this is assessed on a case-by-case basis and does not guarantee that DE (IED) will not report the student to DHA.
  • Students must be reported to DHA if their attendance falls below 70% regardless of any compassionate or compelling circumstances.

Monitoring and support

  • Schools must record attendance daily and monitor the rate of attendance for international students each week.
  • Absences for international students are in line with domestic students; schools should refer to the Attendance — Students Policy and the CASES21 absence code list for information on what counts as an absence for attendance purposes.
  • Schools must implement and document intervention support strategies to help students when the student’s attendance drops to 90%.
  • The student is deemed 'at-risk' of unsatisfactory attendance and breaching their visa requirements when their rate of attendance reaches 85%. Support provisions under the intervention strategy may need to be revised.
  • Schools must ensure that students and their parents are aware that their student visa may be cancelled by DHA if students do not meet attendance requirements.

Taking leave and other absences

  • DHA does not allow an international student to take leave during term unless there are compassionate or compelling reasons to do so — this is implemented through a temporary suspension of enrolment. Compassionate circumstances include serious illness or death of close relatives but do not extend to visiting relatives for weddings, graduations or similar events. DE (IED), not schools, assess the application for a temporary suspension of enrolment.
  • Leave during the school term must be approved by DE (IED) and recorded on PRISMS before the student leaves to protect the student’s visa.
  • A student must request leave by completing an ISP Temporary Enrolment Suspension Application and if possible submitting this to DE (IED) at least 14 days before the proposed start date of the leave. The form must be signed by the student's parent and the school principal, and include written evidence that compassionate or compelling circumstances apply.
  • Schools can approve only short periods of leave in line with school and DE attendance policies, for example, if a student is sick and has a doctor's certificate. This leave should not extend beyond a few days and schools must always be aware of the student’s attendance requirements to achieve satisfactory attendance.
  • All school-approved leave counts as an absence for the purposes of a student's attendance visa requirements.
  • A temporary suspension of enrolment for an international student is different to a school suspension caused by misbehaviour.
  • If an international student attends a third-party provider (for example, VSL) for any part of their studies, the school must ensure that attendance is recorded and monitored.
  • Absences from scheduled course hours at the third-party provider count as absences for attendance monitoring purposes.

Course progress and learning support

Course progress requirements

  • Students must achieve a satisfactory or passing mark in every subject of their course to achieve satisfactory course progress.
  • The only exception to this is where the principal deems the student to have satisfactory effort as demonstrated by meeting deadlines, participating in class and showing a dedicated approach to learning.
  • Schools must proactively monitor student course progress to ensure students are always in a position to complete their course by the expected completion date specified on their CoE. If this is not the case, the school must contact DE (IED) for advice.

Learning support

  • Schools must provide reasonable English language and learning support to international students as required.
  • Support should be tailored to the student's individual learning needs. If additional support is required but not available at the school, staff may be required to refer students to external support services. The referral must not incur any cost to the student but costs for external support services are usually paid for by parents or guardians.
  • An intervention strategy which documents all learning support must be implemented for international students showing early signs of poor course progress and when the student is ‘at risk’ of not maintaining satisfactory course progress.
  • In very limited circumstances, schools can apply to DE (IED) for approval for a student to undertake an Unscored VCE. IED will grant approval if the IED project officer reviewing the application is satisfied that the school and family agree that it is in the student’s best interest and the school can demonstrate that they have met their responsibilities regarding monitoring course progress and providing tailored support to students as part of their intervention strategies to help the student improve. Further information can be found in the ISP Unscored VCE Policy (DOCX)External Link and schools can apply by submitting the ISP Unscored VCE Application and Consent Form (DOCX)External Link .
  • Schools must ensure that students and their parents are aware of the serious visa implications if students do not satisfactorily progress through their course.

Modes of study

  • The National Code limits international students’ participation in online learning or studies delivered by a third party. DE (IED) only allows international students to participate in online learning through the Victorian School of Languages (VSL) or Virtual School Victoria (VSV) and study through a third-party provider if they are participating in a VCE language at a community language school. These studies are restricted to one subject per semester. A second subject may be approved by DE (IED) in compelling circumstances.
  • A suitability and risk assessment of community language school sites must be completed before an international student commences study. Additional suitability and risk assessments and site inspections must be conducted each year or immediately if the community language school’s premises change while the student is studying. Suitability assessment reports and a completed Community Language School contract (DOCX)External Link needs to be signed by the principal then forwarded to DE (IED) for approval.
  • International students studying online must have their suitability to learn online assessed (DOCX)External Link and sign a DE Acceptable Use Agreement (DOCX)External Link before approval is granted for them to participate. If the student requires learning support to participate, this must be provided at no additional cost to the student.
  • Schools are not required to pay for an international student's participation with the VSL or VSV, as DE (IED) has an arrangement to disburse payment for these studies to the VSL directly.
  • Schools must pay for an international student’s participation in VCE language studies at a community language school from the funds disbursed to the school from DE (IED).
  • An international student participating in studies delivered through online learning or by a third-party education provider cannot gain a qualification or partial qualification for these studies.
  • Schools must ensure an international student's course progress and attendance continues to be recorded and monitored when they are participating in these modes of study.
  • DE's community language school contract requires community language schools to report attendance on a weekly basis. Schools are responsible for following up with the provider if the school does not receive the weekly attendance report.

VCE Vocational Major

  • International students can enrol in the VCE Vocational Major (VM). If a school has a student who wants to undertake the VCE VM, the school must use the ISP VCE VM Informed Consent Form (DOCX)External Link to support their discussions with students and families and gain informed consent to enrol in the VCE VM.
  • Schools should email a copy of the completed and signed ISP VCE VM Consent Form to DE (IED). Schools must also follow the ISP VET Policy (DOCX)External Link for the student’s participation in VET studies as part of the VCE VM.

VET studies

  • International students can study VET subjects as part of the VCE or VCE Vocational Major but there are limitations on an international student’s participation in VET studies and additional requirements that schools must meet. These include:
    • for the VCE, students can only participate in VCE VET subjects
    • schools must receive informed consent from the student’s parents or legal guardian using the ISP VET Informed Consent Form (DOCX)External Link
    • schools must enter into an appropriate VET third-party agreement and must submit it to DE (IED) on VISIT for approval prior to students commencing their studies
    • schools must conduct a site visit for any VET studies being delivered offsite by a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) using the ISP VET Site Inspection Form (DOCX)External Link
    • students can participate in work-based training (structured workplace learning) as part of their VET studies as long as the student’s direct supervisor in the workplace has a valid Working With Children Check (WWCC).
  • The families of students are required to pay any VET-related material fees and must be informed of any costs prior to undertaking the VET subject/s.
  • Further requirements and details can be found in the ISP VET Policy (DOCX)External Link . Please ensure you read and understand the policy before enrolling a student in VET studies.

Other types of study

International students are not able to participate in the following:

  • Victorian Pathways Certificate (VPC)
  • Higher Education studies at a university
  • International Baccalaureate Diploma studies
  • Online studies through Emerging Science Victoria or with any other provider.

Changes to study program

  1. There are a number of situations during the course that may result in a student requesting to have a variation to their enrolment. Variations to enrolment can result from:
    • granting course credit
    • changing year level placement within a school
    • extending or reducing the duration of enrolment
    • changing Victorian government schools
    • temporary suspensions of enrolment
    • outcomes of intervention strategies and compliance contracts.
  2. Schools must send an email to DE (IED) as soon as possible (and within 5 working days) following any expected changes to an international student’s course.
  3. DE (IED) will review the evidence provided and if accepted will notify schools of the outcome.
  4. A variation of enrolment is not guaranteed and must be approved by DE (IED).

Extra-curricular activities

  • International students are encouraged to participate in all learning opportunities offered by schools including sport, music, art, debating, etc. To ensure students’ safety during these activities please refer to the ISP Student Travel Policy.
  • If the school offers and endorses an extra-curricular activity as part of its offering, participation does not affect an international student’s attendance as these activities are regarded as part of the school’s curriculum.
  • If the student participates in private extra-curricular activity during school hours then then these will be counted as absences for attendance monitoring purposes.

International students and work

In most cases, an international student holding a 500 Student Schools visa is able to work for 48 hours per fortnight. The primary purpose of the student’s visa is to study, however, the opportunity to participate in part-time work can provide an international student with important social, financial and language-development opportunities.

Where the department holds welfare responsibility for an international student, it is a school decision whether to allow the student to participate in work outside of school. When making a decision, a school should remember that international students are considered a vulnerable cohort as they are away from their normal support networks, may have language difficulties and could be more inclined to follow inappropriate instructions without question. International students are also vulnerable to exploitation in the workplace with regards to working hours and pay.

Before making a decision, it is important that the school considers:

  • Is the type of work and place of work appropriate?
  • Are the hours within the student’s 48 hours per fortnight visa limits?
  • Are the hours scheduled at appropriate times? For example, the student may be scheduled to work too late, such as past midnight, which may have an impact on their attendance and course progress at school.
  • Is the student aware that Australia has minimum wages and how to access this information? (Refer to Fair Work Ombudsman – Minimum wagesExternal Link and International studentsExternal Link ).
  • Is the student’s English language proficiency sufficient for the student to follow safety instructions?
  • Is the school comfortable with the student’s travel arrangements, especially if the student could be scheduled to work in the evening?
  • Would the student benefit from participating in part-time work?

If the school still has concerns after considering the above, it may wish to undertake additional due diligence, such as conducting a workplace site inspection.

If a school does allow an international student to participate in part-time work, the school should check in with the student approximately once per term to monitor any concerns, and validate that the workplace continues to be appropriate for the student.

If the student experiences difficulties at school, such as being late or problems with course progress, the school should consider advising the student to reduce their work hours or cease working altogether.

School responsibilities and guidance

Staff knowledge of ESOS obligations

  1. Ensure all staff engaged with international students are aware of their obligations under the National Code.
  2. Ensure staff participate in PDP and training sessions offered by the school and DE (IED).

Learning and/or welfare support

  1. Identify learning needs of individual and international student cohorts.
  2. Provide a reasonable level of learning and/or welfare support to individual or international student cohorts as required.
  3. Ensure international students know the name and contact details for the school’s designated student contact officer.


  • Record students' attendance daily in accordance with normal department attendance policies (for example, twice a day for primary school, and during each class for secondary school) such as assessing and approving short periods of leave (typically no more than a few days).
    Note that school-approved leave days are counted as absences for the purposes of calculating satisfactory course attendance.
  • Monitor the rate of international students' attendance each week to identify students at risk of not meeting the 80% attendance requirement.
  • Provide appropriate support to students ‘at risk’ (i.e. less than 85% attendance for the term) of not meeting the attendance requirement. Ensure the support strategies are suited to the student's needs, are well documented and retained on the student's file.
  • Warn students at risk and their parents of the potential for their student visa to be cancelled if attendance requirements are not met.
  • Escalate cases of students at-risk of unsatisfactory attendance to the principal. The principal must issue a Compliance Contract (please use the ISP Compliance Contract template (DOCX)External Link ) to students ‘at risk’.
  • Send a copy of the compliance contract (and evidence of previous intervention strategies and other relevant documentation evidence) to DE (IED)
  • Notify DE (IED) immediately when the student's attendance falls below 80%.

What to do when

Student’s attendance is below 90%

(typically 5 days of absences and/or school-approved absences in a 10 week term)

  1. Meet with the student to discuss the reasons for absences.
  2. Offer counselling if required.
  3. Notify the parents of the situation, discuss whether compassionate or compelling circumstances apply and advise them of potential visa implications.
  4. Document the discussion with the student and the parent using the ISP Course Progress, Attendance, and Behaviour – meeting template (DOCX)External Link .
  5. Implement and document appropriate intervention strategies to help improve the student's rate of attendance.
  6. Send parents a copy of the agreed intervention strategy (translated if necessary).
Student’s attendance is below 85%

(typically more than 7.5 days of absences and/or school-approved leave in a 10 week term)

  1. Escalate the matter to the principal for their attention because the student is deemed at risk of failing to meet attendance requirements.
  2. Meet with the student and parent or guardian to discuss an appropriate final intervention strategy to improve attendance.
  3. Warn parents of potential visa implications if the student’s attendance does not improve. If compassionate or compelling circumstances exist such as ongoing illness discuss potential need for temporary suspension.
  4. Document discussions from the meeting on the ISP Course Progress, Attendance, and Behaviour – meeting template (DOCX)External Link .
  5. The principal should develop and implement an ISP Compliance Contract (DOCX)External Link for students at risk. The compliance contract has a maximum review period of 4 weeks.
  6. Send the compliance contract (including relevant supporting evidence and the initial intervention strategy) to DE (IED).
Student’s attendance is below 80%

(typically more than 10 days of absences and/or school-approved leave in a 10 week term)

  1. Immediately notify DE (IED) of any students whose attendance has fallen below 80% to DE (IED).
  2. Provide DE (IED) with any new evidence such as the completed ISP Course progress-attendance-behaviour checklist (DOCX)External Link .
  3. Liaise with DE (IED) to ensure all appropriate compliance steps and evidence requirements have been met.

Student leave during term

  1. Contact DE (IED) if an international student wishes to take leave during the school term (other than occasional sick days).
  2. Advise the student and their parent or guardian that taking leave during term may affect their visa unless there are compassionate or compelling circumstances.
  3. Offer counselling if required.
  4. Advise students that DE (IED) determines whether the reasons and evidence to suspend studies are acceptable or not.
  5. Consider whether compassionate or compelling circumstances could apply.
  6. If so, ask the parent to complete the ISP Temporary Enrolment Suspension Application (DOCX)External Link .
  7. Send completed form to DE (IED) for consideration and approval.

Course progress

  1. Proactively monitor international students to identify students at risk of not meeting satisfactory course progress.
  2. Provide appropriate learning support to students based on their individual learning needs.
  3. Implement and document intervention strategies to help students improve their course progress.
  4. Ensure that students understand the requirements to progress through their course, maintain satisfactory course progress, and the implication for their student visa if satisfactory course progress is not maintained.
  5. Escalate any cases of students at-risk of unsatisfactory course progress to the principal.
  6. The principal must engage students at risk in an ISP Compliance Contract (DOCX)External Link and forward a copy to DE (IED).
  7. Engage DE (IED) if the student is unable to improve.

Modes of study

  1. Principals must nominate a school supervisor to assess the student’s suitability for these modes of study and offer any required support.
  2. Refer to the ISP Modes of Study Policy (DOCX)External Link and the ISP Modes of Study Assessments (DOCX)External Link documents for further details about school supervisor tasks.
  3. Conduct a third-party education provider suitability and risk assessment and community language school site inspection prior to international student participation in these modes of study.
  4. Send the suitability assessment reports and community language school contract (DOCX)External Link to DE (IED)'s for approval before prior to entering into an agreement with a community language school.
  5. Monitor attendance and course progress of all international students to ensure compliance with student visa conditions.
  6. Arrange for any support that any international student may require to assist their learning.
  7. Conduct a new third-party education provider suitability and risk assessment and community language school site inspection every year or immediately if the community language school's premises change while the student is studying.

The student has started their ‘non-school’ mode of study

  1. Meet with the student in the week following their first class to ask if they have any questions or concerns.
  2. Continue monitoring visits once each term while the student is studying, unless more frequent meetings have been identified as an additional support requirement for the student.
  3. Assist the student with any questions or concerns and assist the student to liaise with the provider, if necessary.
  4. Monitor each international student's attendance to ensure compliance with the student's visa conditions.
  5. Follow up with the third-party provider if attendance information is not provided.
  6. Monitor the student's course progress to ensure compliance with the student's visa conditions by reviewing reports supplied by the third-party provider.

Changes to study program

  1. Ensure that any variations to enrolments are reported to DE (IED) immediately.
  2. Maintain accurate and up-to-date records.

Student changes year level within the school

  1. If a school initiates a change in year level placement, liaise with student and parent/agent and obtain agreement.
  2. If student and parent do not support change in year level placement, refer the student to career counselling staff if required, or monitor the student's progress in accordance with the ISP Course Progress Procedure (DOCX)External Link .
  3. Recommend change of year level placement to school principal. This must be supported by a statement outlining reasons and evidence, including advice received from DE (IED) regarding CRICOS and student visa requirements.
  4. The school principal must decide (within 5 working days) whether to approve the change of year level placement.
  5. If approval is not granted, outline the reasons and advise school staff of the decision.
  6. If the request is approved, school staff must email DE (IED) promptly (within 5 working days) at with the subject line 'Notification of approved change of year level placement'.
  7. Advise the student and parent/agent that the principal has approved the year level change.
  8. School staff should facilitate the change in year level placement and continue to provide support to the student.
  9. If the principal does not approve the year level change, advise the student and parent/agent of the reasons in writing and refer them to the ISP Complaints and Appeals Policy (DOCX)External Link .
  10. Continue to monitor the student's progress in accordance with the ISP Course Progress Procedure (DOCX)External Link and the ISP Attendance Procedure (DOCX)External Link if necessary.
  11. Update the student file and CASES21 with any changes.

Compliance evidence

Schools must ensure that they use the following documents and retain them for audit purposes.

Staff PDP/training
  • evidence of staff engagement in PDP and/or training to improve their ESOS knowledge.
Student support
  • evidence of sufficient support personnel to meet the needs of the school’s international student cohort.
Attendance and course progress and learning support
Student leave
Changes to study program
Modes of study
Section 7 of the ISP School Toolkit on general learning and welfare support for international students, attendance (including student leave), course progress and learning support and modes of study

Reviewed 08 June 2023

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