PARENTS who allow their children to regularly skip school will face hefty fines after crackdown on truancy.
Opposition Leader Steven Marshall will launch the Liberals’ truancy policy on Friday, which includes fining parents $2000 — a 400 per cent increase. The State Government also said it intended to lift the maximum fine to $5000, reports The Adverstiser.
The Liberals’ plan would also see parents face “aggressive” prosecution and 50 per cent more staff to enforce school attendance if the State Liberals are elected in 2018.
Education Minister Susan Close said later this year she would also introduce laws to make it easier to prosecute parents and the ability to issue on-the-spot fines for truancy.
She said a prosecution the Government recently initiated would likely assist in guiding the changes needed to make future cases easier to pursue.
On average, SA students missed almost one week of school (4.5 days) each term last year. Missing 10 days out of a school term is classified as “chronic non-attendance” and can trigger prosecution of a parent but so far none has proceeded to court.
Mr Marshall said that five days away each term over a child’s whole education added up to more than a year of missed schooling.
“Parents who take no responsibility for their children’s education should be held accountable,” he said.
The Liberal plan to crack down on truancy includes:
AMENDING the Education Act to increase the maximum fine for parents who allow their children to be chronically truant from $500 to $2000.
“AGGRESSIVE” pursuit of prosecutions against parents who refuse to engage with the Education Department.
INCREASING the fine for hindering or obstructing officers who are identifying children not at school from $5000 to $7500.
AUDITING all public schools’ attendance policies.
ENSURING children under guardianship of the minister attend school or other mainstream education, cutting down on the large number who have reduced hours or do not attend at all, as recommended by the child protection Royal Commission.
INCREASING the number of Education Department truancy officers by 50 per cent.
Liberal education spokesman John Gardner said there was a clause in the current Education Act that gave parents a “get out clause” to prosecution where they could argue they had made reasonable endeavours to get their children to school.
“There are cases before the court where if this proves to be the problem, we’ll also be eager to change that,” he said.
An internal Education Department document obtained by The Advertiser last year revealed that almost a third of student absences from public schools were not explained.
In March this year, Education Minister Susan Close revealed Labor was working on a plan to get tough on parents, which included giving some school staff similar powers to child protection workers to enable them to require meetings between the families of absent children and welfare authorities.
Attorney-General John Rau said the Government’s proposed reforms to data-sharing laws could allow the state to work with the Federal Government to reduce parents’ Centrelink payments if their children were regularly absent from school.
“The Commonwealth have a program where if people don’t vaccinate their kids, they are penalised with Centrelink, which has improved vaccination rates,” he said.
“With truancy in schools, you could provide a similar disincentive.”
Update 21 Sep
Social Services Minister, Christian Porter, also believes linking recipients’ payments to their children’s school attendance could have the same success as the “no jab, no play” policy, the Herald Sun reports.
The “no jab no pay” policy withholds payments from families who fail to have their children vaccinated.
“There are other areas where if you had the same stringency of design, it’s quite possible that you could have also very good results,” Mr Porter said. “I must say that one of them … is the linking of payments to school attendance.”
Ms Close said the Government would consider any approach where evidence showed there were sustainable improvements in school attendance.
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