The Federal government has released its response to last year’s significant Senate inquiry into school refusal, “noting” 12 of the recommendations and giving “in principle” support to two others.

In the opening page of its response, the Government noted school administration rested with state and territory governments and it would “continue to work in partnership with states and territories” to address the rise of school refusal cases.

“The Government recognises that working with states and territories and the non-government education sector is key to implementing effective and holistic policy improvements that respond to the issue of school refusal,” the response said.

It agreed “in principle” to Recommendation 1, which called for research into the drivers and prevalence of school refusal and effectiveness of interventions.

It also supported the recommendation that Australian governments work together to increase awareness and understanding of school refusal within the health sector and in teacher training.

A re-cap on the Senate inquiry

School refusal refers to difficulty attending school associated with emotional distress and can mean that children have trouble going to school or trouble leaving home.

It’s a live issue across all school sectors and is an area of growing concern for families and educators. Some organisations and families prefer the term ‘school can’t, as the term school refusal can misrepresent a student’s absence from school as a deliberate choice.

The Senate Standing Committee on Education and Employment held public hearings in Brisbane, Melbourne and Canberra into the rising trend of school refusal in early 2023 and released their report in August 2023, making 14 significant recommendations.

Queensland Independent Schools Parents Network was one of many organisations to give evidence at the inquiry about the significant distress experienced by families supporting children with school refusal or ”school can’t”.

Need for effective family engagement referred to states and territories

The Senate committee report also called for effective family engagement practices in schools, including the provision of specialist family engagement support staff.

In its response, released on 11 April 2024, the Federal Government “noted” the family engagement recommendation and said it had referred it to state and territory education authorities and the non-government school sector for consideration.

QIS Parents Network Executive Director Amanda Watt said it was heartening to see family engagement increasing prioritised by governments.

“To have education authorities and the non-government school sector work together to develop and promote resources about school refusal for families and teachers is very much welcome.

“We hope this report and its’ recommendations lead to real change for the families and students who are struggling with school refusal or ‘school can’t’.’’

Read More

Read the Senate Committee’s report in full here:…/Education…/SchoolRefusal/Report

Read the Federal Government’s response:

Read how some stakeholders reacted to the Federal Government’s response in this article by The Guardian.