by Kate Casey

Wagging school – the worrying stats affecting your son

Is being late for school or missing a few days here and there really a big deal? The short answer is yes. Kate Casey, Associate of the Crowther Centre at Brighton Grammar, explains why skipping school can have a serious impact on your son’s academic and social development.

Of course, some school absences are unavoidable – your son will get sick, or there may be a family emergency.

However, what you may not realise is just how much school your son is missing, and, most importantly the valuable opportunities for education and interaction he’s missing by not being at school.

Opportunities that cannot be regained.

Regular absenteeism

Regular absenteeism is defined as missing at least 1 day of school every week. However, if your son misses just 1 day a fortnight, he will miss 4 full weeks by the end of the school year. By Year 10, he will have missed more than an entire year of school.

Will this disadvantage him in the future? It’s hard to say, but in today’s highly competitive world, is it worth the risk?

Wagging school – where to draw the line

When it comes to your son’s education, there are no ‘safe’ number of days for him to miss school. Each day missed will put him behind, and potentially affect his educational outcomes. In fact, the Department of Education and Training (DET) found that limited school participation is associated with a greater chance of dropping out of school and disruptive and delinquent behaviour. The DET also suggested that limited school participation may lead to a cycle of rebellion against authority.

When it comes to your son’s education, there are no ‘safe’ number of days for him to miss school.

Aussie kids are world leaders in skipping school

Despite these serious ‘cons’ to skipping school, Australian kids are missing more days than many of their global peers.

According to a 2015 study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 29% of Australian students skip a day of school (in a two-week period) in comparison to only 2% in Japan and Korea, 3% in Taiwan, 14% in Singapore and 18% in Canada. Surprisingly, the percentage of children skipping school in Australia was the 7th highest out of the 35 OECD countries.

Recent figures from Victoria’s DET also show that the average Year 9 student in Victoria spends 5 weeks absent from school a year – the most of any age group. On average, students miss between 12 and 15 days per school year. So why are the figures so high?

Parent-condoned absenteeism

One reason could be parent-condoned absenteeism, which many schools report is an increasing trend, particularly in the primary years.

In a 2012 article from The Sunday Telegraph, Public Schools Principal forum chairperson Cheryl McBride notes that overseas holidays are fuelling a large amount of absenteeism. In addition to this, schools are also seeing children miss school for other reasons, including:

  • to celebrate a birthday
  • to visit with relatives
  • to look after their younger siblings
  • to go shopping
  • to take advantage of a long weekend and/or cheaper flights
  • because they don’t want to participate in camps or sporting events.

Often these absences are not necessary, and can encourage kids to see regular school attendance as unimportant. However, it is important to realise that every absence from school is a missed opportunity for learning. Though missing just one day of school may not seem like much at the time, it will leave your son’s learning full of holes.

While days off due to genuine illness are valid and necessary, it is important that parents work with the school to minimise any other absences.

Every absence from school is a missed opportunity for learning.

What if your son’s getting to school, but arriving late?

The stats on lateness don’t look good either, and worryingly, the OECD study found that 41% of Australian students arrived late for school at least once in a two-week period.

In a 2014 paper, Michael Gottfried explored the impact of student tardiness on their peers. What he found was that when a child arrives late, the teacher will respond to the educational needs of the late student by reallocating class time. This has an adverse effect on the other students in the classroom as instruction is slowed by the disruption. So if just one child in your son’s class is late (and the likelihood is that’ll be the case), it will impede the learning of all the other kids in the classroom.

Tips for parents

So what can you do to help your son get to school regularly and on time?

  • Be clear about your expectations. Talk to your son about the importance of going to school each day (on time) and make that the expectation from an early age.
  • Keep school time for school. Try not to schedule appointments during school hours and, where possible, arrange family holidays during the school holiday periods so your son doesn’t miss out on classes.
  • Talk to your son around his feelings about school. What interests him at school? Are there any difficult situations he may be trying to avoid?
  • Help him to maintain daily routines such as finishing homework and getting a proper night’s sleep.
  • If an absence is unavoidable, speak to your son’s teachers about catching up on missed work.
  • Encourage meaningful extra-curricular activities that your son enjoys – participating in team or group-based activities such as sports or music will help your son feel like part of the group, important and more motivated.
  • Set a good example yourself – often how we meet our commitments will impact on how your son will meet his.




Brought to you by Brighton Grammar School

Kate Casey is a former lawyer and is now Associate at the Crowther Centre at Brighton Grammar, an all-boys school in Melbourne. This article is about


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