The Department of Education aims to improve attendance of students in public schools by providing direct support to those students in greatest need. The Department’s approach is based on the mutual obligation of schools, parents and communities to develop strategies that link directly to the local causes of student absence.

Recent research clearly shows the need to engage students and establish positive attendance behaviours in the early years of schooling; to support student attendance at transition points and to raise parent and community awareness of the fact that, where academic achievement is concerned, every day counts.

Attendance requirements

Education is compulsory for students from the beginning of the year they turn 5 years 6 months, until the end of the year in which they turn 17. From 2014, this will become until the end of the year in which the student reaches the age of 17 years and six months, or until the student reaches the age of 18, whichever happens first.

The School Education Act 1999 requires compulsory aged students to attend school, or participate in an educational program of a school, on the days on which the school is open for instruction, unless an alternative written arrangement has been entered into for the student (Sections 23 - 26).

Students must attend school on a regular basis to gain the maximum benefit from schooling and optimise their life opportunities. Research has established that every day counts and that there is no safe level of absence from school.

The school principal is responsible for the accurate recording and monitoring of all students’ attendance. The principal will implement appropriate measures to restore the attendance of students where there is cause for concern.

The impact of persistent absences

Regular attendance is a learned behaviour. Children learn from an early age that punctuality and ‘showing up’ are expectations that people have of us in various social circumstances. When children engage in activities outside of school - such as sport, employment or even going to the movies - arriving on time is regarded as essential.

Attendance patterns are established in the early years of school. Disparities in attendance rates are carried into and become wider in secondary school. These patterns are evident in the early years of schooling and are established or set by Year 3.

Many parents hold the belief that children will not be adversely affected by missing school. Parents would benefit from understanding what normal attendance looks like, and to hear the consistent message that every day that their child misses school will have consequences for their learning and achievement.

Why is it important to ensure that my child attends regularly?

Apart from the legal requirement to attend, it is vital that children every day for the sake of their future successes, academically and emotionally as well as in regards to employment choices.It is very important that parents help children to develop good attendance career from the very beginning by ensuring that they attend kindergarten or school whenever possible. Current research points to a strong link between regular and consistent attendance patterns established in the early years of schooling and those patterns continuing throughout a student’s career.

The Telethon Institute for Child Health Research report on Western Australian students clearly shows that every day counts in terms of a student’s achievement and that those students who miss any school have reduced academic outcomes compared with those who attend regularly.

  • The impact of absence on achievement is greatest for students who are already at educational disadvantage.
  • Unauthorised absences have a greater negative impact on student achievement than authorised absences.
  • Being half an hour late to school each day from Year 1 to Year 10 is approximately equivalent to missing one year of schooling.
  • A student who is absent 1 day a fortnight will, by Year 9, have missed 1 year of schooling. 
  • The negative effect of absence on achievement is cumulative over the course of a student’s attendance career.