Same-day reporting of student absences: QTU advice
The Queensland Government has released its response to recent tragic events involving a state school student in out-of-home care.
An email to all schools, distributed by the department late on the afternoon of the first day of term three, provided advice to principals about the department’s expectations arising from the government’s announcement. A copy of the text of the email is available here.
The immediate requirement is that any student in out-of-home care must have their absence from school reported to the caregiver without delay. Schools with students in out-of-home care will need to develop an action plan to ensure that this outcome is achieved.
The most significant development for schools is the introduction of a requirement for same-day reporting of student absences for all students from the beginning of 2017. The expectation is that schools will develop an implementation plan over the course of semester two 2016 to deliver on this expectation.
In developing their implementation process, schools should conduct workplace and community consultation to consider at least:
- the method of notification that best meets the needs of your school and community (e.g. text messaging, emails, phone calls, etc)
- a communication strategy to inform parents about:
- the method of notification to be used by the school
- the need for up-to-date parent contact details
- the need for discipline around parent responses to school messages involving student absence.
Workplace consultation will involve the local consultative committee and should focus on the issue of the workload associated with this enhanced requirement. The department urges schools to give consideration to the employment of administration staff for additional hours to make the daily notifications, with the goal of ensuring that there are no workload implications for teaching staff.
The collection and management of data on student absences, including following up student absences with parents and care-givers, are captured by the Joint Statement on the Purpose and Use of Data. There are two critical statements to note.
- Schools are required to maintain data that relates to student outcomes, such as academic, attendance, behavioural and student wellbeing. Processes and resources to collect, record and follow up such data should be negotiated, outlined and included in the school's data plan.
- It is the expectation of DET and the QTU that workload considerations will be assessed at each school and addressed through the school data plan.
In addition to the joint statement, the QTU has adopted a specific position statement on this issue. QTU members should be aware that the Union’s position in respect of data on student absence is that the teacher’s role is limited to monitoring attendance via class roll marking. Classroom teachers should not be required to call parents/caregivers seeking an explanation for periods of student absence.
The department currently has arrangements in place for schools to purchase a text messaging service that can be used with OneSchool (see the standing offer arrangement [SOA] for text messaging). In term three, the department is establishing an additional standing offer arrangement for student attendance management systems that, when linked with text message systems, will alert parents/carers to the unexplained absence of their child from school. Schools will be advised when the SOA is finalised. Care must be taken when considering the purchase of such a system prior to the standing offer arrangements being finalised, given the strict requirements of compliance for management of parent and student data.
Each school has been provided with $4,235 in the GAPS payments at the end of semester one. These funds have been allocated to schools for the purchase of student absence and messaging systems or, where these systems are already in place, the purchase of additional time to support the process of follow-up on student absences.
Union Representatives and principals in all schools are urged to meet to discuss these developments at the earliest opportunity and to map out the consultation process to be used to develop a response. All schools, including schools that already have a student absence management process in place, need to consider the workload implications of this new expectation and include the response in the data management plan developed under the data joint statement.