Refer to a school attendance officer

This information has moved to the new Policy and Advisory Library (PAL). The content is an archive only and is no longer being maintained. For accurate advice visit PAL.

​​​This page includes information for principals on when and how to refer a student to a school attendance officer.


Referring a student to an attendance officer may be appropriate where the principal determines that:

  • intervention strategies have not improved attendance
  • the student's parent is not engaged
  • an attendance notice is required to convey the seriousness of the matter and is likely to prompt an improvement in attendance.

Referrals can also be made if it becomes apparent the student is not returning to school, there is no known destination (for example, moving to another school) and the student has been absent for ten consecutive school days.

You do not have to make a referral for all absences that meet these criteria. You can continue to manage the absences at a school level.

Before making a referral

To make a referral you need to establish that:

  • the student has been absent from school on at least five full days in the previous 12 months and the parent has not provided a reasonable excuse for these absences
  • measures to improve the student's attendance have not been successful, or are inappropriate in the circumstances
  • a parent responsible for the absences can be identified (a single person to be the addressee of the school attendance notice).

You should also be certain there is evidence to demonstrate the parent has not been meeting their responsibilities.


If the above conditions are met, you should also:

  • be satisfied that the reasons for the failure to comply with attendance requirements have been explored, including any social, cultural, linguistic, economic, geographic or learning difficulties
  • ensure that if a mechanism exists for the student, that support group has been consulted about the attendance issue or that mechanism utilised before making a referral
  • consider the particular circumstances of the student and family, including likely consequences if the parent does not respond adequately to an attendance notice
  • attempt to contact the parent by phone to let them know the situation and confirm their awareness of the seriousness of the issue.

Before referring, government school principals may also wish to consult with the health and wellbeing officers in their regional office for advice. Seeking advice does not oblige you to make a referral.

Further resources to support principals in making a referral can be found at Attendance resources for principals.

There are additional considerations for students in certain circumstances:

Non-compulsory school aged students

A school attendance notice may only be sent to a student of compulsory school age. Before making a referral, principals should check that the student is of compulsory school age, particularly for students in prep or year 11 and 12.

Mature minors

Where a student is under 18 but they are considered a 'mature minor', you should focus on attendance improvement strategies that do not include referral to a school attendance officer.

International students

You should consult with the International Education Division to confirm the visa status for the child and act in accordance with the provisions and sanctions under the Education and Services for Overseas Students Framework.

For more information, see:

Make a referral

Complete a referral form, which can be found on the department's intranet, see: attendance resources for principals

This form will need to be submitted to the school attendance officer via your closest regional office.

After making a referral

You must continue to record and monitor the student’s attendance.

When a resolution is reached or no response is received to a school attendance notice, the school attendance officer will notify the school to do one or more of the following:

  • Complete a transfer or exit process for the student, and provide an exit destination record.
  • Amend the attendance record for the time the student has not been attending, so the absences do not count towards the school's absences, from a date specified by the school attendance officer.
  • Maintain the student's enrolment at the school and amend the attendance records for the time the student was not attending to reflect the actual reason for the absence.
  • Implement a return to school plan for the student.

Resources for principals

For further information and resources, see attendance resources for schools, (eduMail login required).

Information for school attendance officers

See school attendance notices and infringements​.