How to consider student absences

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This page includes advice for principals on whether to accept an absence, where the parent has given an explanation.

There's a different process for unexplained student absences​ that must be followed the same day as the absence.


You should:

  1. Consider the request to approve the student's absence.
  2. Use your discretion to decide whether to excuse the absence.
  3. Notify the parent if the absences have not been excused.
  4. Refer to a student attendance officer if the situation warrants it.

Things to consider

You should consider:

  • whether the absence has a reasonable excuse or the student is entitled to an exemption under the Education and Training Reform Act 2006
  • whether the student should complete learning activities during the absence
  • if this kind of absence is covered in your school’s attendance policy
  • whether or not the length of absence will affect the student’s learning
  • whether the parent has requested this kind of absence before, and if so how recently and how many times
  • whether or not you have approved this kind of absence before
  • cultural factors or details of the student and family’s circumstances
  • the implications of not approving the absence
  • whether an exemption would be appropriate. If so, the school should assist the parent to apply for an exemption.

Accepted absences

In general, it's expected that these absences are excused:

  • Medical and dental appointments, where out of hours appointments are not possible.
  • Bereavement or going to the funeral of a relative or friend of the student. This includes needing to attend Sorry Business. For Sorry Business absences, find more information under Koorie Cultural Absences (including Sorry Business). 
  • School refusal, if a plan is in place with the parent to address causes.
  • Cultural observance, if the parent notifies the school in advance.
  • Family holidays, where the parent notifies the school in advance and the student completes any student absence learning plan agreed by the school, student and parent.

Koorie Cultural Absences (including Sorry Business)

Culture plays an important role in a Koorie student's education and overall well-being. When a death occurs in the Koorie community, it is a cultural expectation that Koorie families get together and support each other regardless of distance or for how long that support is required. This is known as Sorry Business. There is a specific CASES21 absence code for Sorry Business (code '212'). These absences are marked as approved and counted as an absence on the student's attendance record.  

Attendance every day is essential for engagement and learning at school, but sometimes there are obligations or opportunities for Koorie students to participate in cultural activities during school hours. In some cases, these absences can be coded as an 'Educational Activity' in CASES 21 under code 600. These absences are marked as approved and not counted as an absence on the student's attendance record.

Schools are encouraged to work with families to ensure Koorie students are properly supported when they are away from school for Sorry Business or other cultural reasons. For more information, see: Coding cultural absences (pdf - 75.05kb).

Absences without a reasonable excuse

In general, it's expected that these absences would not be excused:

  • Where the parent did not seek approval beforehand, or in accordance with school policy.
  • The student was absent due to leisure or social activities without approval.
  • The conditions of approval are not met (for example, a student absence learning plan during a family holiday was not completed).
  • The parent has provided no explanation for the absences.

The school attendance guidelines (docx - 146.14kb) include examples of common reasons for absences and general advice for principals.

Use the attendance section of the intranet for template letters and documents.


Truancy is where a student is absent from school due to their disobedience and not due to any fault of the parents. It's a reasonable excuse from a parent.

You must consider:

  • the age of the student
  • the previous attendance of the student
  • the parent or carer's capacity to influence and control the student’s behaviour.

Truancy is often a warning sign of disengagement. This is best addressed early and in partnership with the family and school.

Student whereabouts unknown

You may make a referral to a school attendance officer​ if:

  1. You have made multiple attempts to contact a parent.
  2. It becomes apparent the student will not be returning to school.
  3. The student is not known to be enrolled at another school or education setting.
  4. The student has been absent for 10 consecutive school days.​

Student absence learning plan

Use these plans to support students who are absent from school for an extended period.

Use the student absence learning plan template (doc - 62kb).

They should be developed by teachers, students and their parent and must be created for students:

  • who are planning extended absences from school, for example a hospital stay or family holiday
  • suspended for more than three days
  • subject to an expulsion appeal process.