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Attendance at school

Parents and caregivers please go to the attendance support for families page if you need support getting a child to school.

Every day matters in the school life of a child or young person. Each day of attendance has a positive effect on their development and future success.

As early as preschool, regular absence can be a predictor of later attendance patterns. Even missing one day a week of school from reception to year 10 adds up to missing 2 years and 1 term of schooling.

Long-term studies have shown that not completing school can be linked with poor physical and mental health, poverty and involvement with the criminal justice system.

Children and young people who do not attend school regularly also miss out on planned learning experiences, sequences of instruction and class participation. The impact of this loss is compounded with each absence. It is also more difficult for them to build positive relationships with others.

Student attendance has 2 categories:

  • Habitual non-attendance: where a student has 5 or more absences for any reason in a term (average of 1 day per fortnight)
  • Chronic non-attendance: where a student is absent for 10 days or more days in a term for any reason (average of 1 day per week).

Shared responsibility

Ensuring regular attendance at preschool and school is a shared responsibility between parents/caregivers, preschools and schools.

If you are having problems with your child’s school attendance, first contact their school to talk about it and ask for help.

If your child misses too much school your school will contact you to work through ways to address the problem. If you do not cooperate with the school and your child to improve their attendance, you could face a penalty.

Effects of missing school

Long-term studies have shown that not completing school can be linked with poor life outcomes including, poor physical and mental health, poverty and involvement with the criminal justice system.

In contrast, regular attendance at school contributes to opportunities for success, including a population that is better educated and healthier, with improved job choices, financial independence and higher overall wellbeing.

Due to a range of factors, including systemic barriers and life circumstances, Aboriginal children are absent from school about twice as much as non-Aboriginal children.  The department will work with Aboriginal families and communities to reduce these barriers and support attendance 

Role of schools and preschools

By identifying attendance problems early, your preschool or school can help support your efforts to get your child to school every day.

Education is so important that any barriers to attendance, learning and wellbeing must be investigated so that children and young people can be present and engaged in their learning.

Varied reasons why children miss school

Many factors affect children’s attendance at school such as:

  • illness or injury
  • family problems
  • medical or dental appointments
  • family holidays or culturally significant occasions.

Young people may also be dealing with challenging life events such as:

  • homelessness
  • grief and loss
  • caring for ill or disabled parents
  • complex family responsibilities or dynamics that have a negative impact on their education.

It is crucial that children and young people feel accepted, valued, safe and respected in their lives, including at schools and preschools.

Links to wellbeing

The department’s attendance strategy aligns with the Wellbeing Framework for Learning and Life, which recognises the link between young people’s wellbeing and their learning outcomes.

Our public education system aims to inspire, engage and empower children and young people to achieve their best at school and in life. These are the main factors that create optimal attendance:

  • quality teaching and learning
  • positive school culture
  • strong relationships.

When it’s acceptable for children to be absent

It is acceptable for a child to miss school when:

  • they are too sick to leave the house
  • they have an infectious illness such as gastroenteritis, chicken pox or measles
  • they need to attend medical or dental appointments that could not be made out of school hours
  • they have been granted an exemption from school
  • they have been sent home or suspended from school for disciplinary reasons
  • the school principal is given a genuine reason that prevents the child from attending school.

If a student is absent due to reported illness for 3 or more consecutive days, the principal can ask for a medical certificate.

Informing school about your child's absence

You need to notify the school of your child's absence and the reason for it. If you can’t do this in advance, send a text message or phone on the day or send a note covering the days missed when your child returns.

Refusal to attend school

A child’s refusal to attend school may the result of several other factors such as:

  • separation anxiety
  • learning difficulties or anxiety
  • peer relationship issues including bullying
  • teacher relationships issues
  • feeling bored or disengaged at school.

Some children may leave the house but not attend school or slip away from the school (truancy).

What to do if your child refuses to attend school

First contact their school to talk about it. You can discuss your concerns with your child's teacher, wellbeing leader, year level manager, deputy principal or the school principal.

For more information phone the parents' hotline on 1300 364 100 or visit the parenting and child health website.

Information for families and students

Visit sa.gov.au for more details about:


Engagement and Wellbeing

Email: education.engagementandwellbeing [at] sa.gov.au