Charging parents fails to stop truancy
TENS of thousands of Queensland kids are wagging school for more than a week at the time without a valid reason, but only a handful of parents are copping tough penalties.
New government data reveals 22,503 students were reported absent from school for five or more consecutive days last financial year for unexplained or invalid reasons, up from 21,745 the year before.
But police have confirmed only 16 parents across the state were charged with failing to enforce compulsory school attendance in 2017.
While Education Minister Grace Grace moved to remind parents they have a legal requirement to ensure their children are in class, she admitted the Education Department only turned parents over to police as a last resort.
"The department would only make a referral to QPS for prosecution after substantial effort has been made to engage with the parents," she said.
But the state Opposition seized on the data to accuse the Government of failing kids.
"The Government has to enforce the law," said LNP education spokesman Jarrod Bleijie.
"What we are seeing is a staggering amount of students not attending school and there is no excuse," he said.
Queensland Teachers' Union president Kevin Bates said the "big stick" approach of charging parents was not really working.
Mr Bates also said new reporting arrangements introduced in the aftermath of the Tiahleigh Palmer murder case meant school staff now had to chase up every absence every day.
"It does create a significant additional workload for teachers and school support staff," he said.
Queensland Secondary Principals' Association president Mark Breckenridge said schools worked hard to get kids to attend, but more needed to be done.
"I think there needs to be that recognition that kids not attending school is a community-wide issue and it needs to be dealt with as a community-wide issue and it can't just be left up to the school," Mr Breckenridge said.
"I would like to continue to see the policy refined so it makes a difference in supporting kids attending school," he said.
QUT academic Rebecca English said schools needed to better engage parents, particularly parents from different cultural backgrounds.
"The evidence would suggest (the policy of charging parents) is not making a difference in truancy rates. We need to be re-engaging with communities to see what that block is in not getting to school and how we can better engage families," she said.