School attendance requirements and the law

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Schooling is compulsory for children who are 6 to 17 years old.

Students are expected to attend their enrolled school during normal school hours every day of each term, unless:

  • the student is registered for home schooling and has only a partial enrolment in a school for particular activities
  • the student has an approved exemption from school enrolment or attendance.

What is in-attendance

A student is considered to be in attendance at school when:

  • present at their enrolled school
  • involved in an offsite curriculum program or activity organised by the school (for example an excursion or camp)
  • at a re-engagement program
  • at another school part time to make up full time attendance and the schools have agreed on time fractions, funding allocations and the educational plan for the student.


Exemptions may be granted where a student:

  • has reached 6 years old but has not started school and is eligible to be enrolled in a first or second year of funded kindergarten
  • has not reached 17 years but will leave school or
  • is absent from school due to employment in the entertainment industry.

To apply, see the exemption policy. Non-government schools should follow the same process.

An exemption is not necessarily required for all absences. If there is no exemption for a student, their absences will count towards the school’s absence count in reporting.

For example, a student with an exemption from attendance for one day per week, who attends the four days per week they are expected to attend, would have 100 per cent attendance. If there was no exemption the student would have 80 per cent attendance.

Schools should tell parents when an exemption from attendance is required and help them apply for the exemption.

Schools and parents may also agree to seek an exemption so that the student’s absences do not count towards the school’s total absences in reporting.

Attendance policies

Government schools are required to have an attendance policy as part of their student engagement policy. A local school policy is a useful tool to explain the procedures that are used to record and monitor attendance.

Helping students attend school each day is a shared responsibility of all parents, students and the school community. Your school's attendance policy should explain these shared expectations.

See the intranet for information on how schools can meet their attendance requirements

Guidelines and legislative requirements

The school attendance guidelines (docx - 148.04kb) support schools and school attendance officers to meet their responsibilities and duties under the law.

Why attendance is important

Daily attendance is important so students don’t fall behind socially and developmentally.

School helps:

  • maximise life opportunities for students by building education and support networks
  • develop important skills, knowledge and values that set them further learning and participation in the community
  • students make the most of life opportunities.

Children and young people who regularly attend school and complete year 12, or an equivalent qualification, have:

  • better health outcomes
  • better employment outcomes
  • higher incomes across their lives.

Regularly missing school may be an indicator of disengagement, leading to adverse outcomes. It is an easily observable warning sign.

A child missing one day a fortnight will miss four weeks in a year, and more than a year of school by year 10. It is important that children develop regular attendance habits at an early age.

An Easy English version of this topic has been written for parent/carer(s). See: