Inquiry to examine rise in school refusal

October 31, 2022 05:11 PM AEDT | By AAPNEWS
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The reasons why growing numbers of students are refusing to return to school in the wake of COVID-19 lockdowns is set to be put in the spotlight.

A Senate committee has been established to examine the rise of school refusal, where students are unable to attend for a long period of time.

School refusal is different to truancy, where students are unable to attend class for a consistent period of time, often due to emotional distress at school or issues at home.

Hearings will begin in early 2023, with people able to make submissions to the inquiry until December 9.

The inquiry will examine the increasing number of school refusals since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as how school refusals are affecting young people and their families.

The impacts of school refusal on service providers and schools will also be looked at, with terms of reference also including how state, territory and federal education bodies are monitoring and addressing the issue.

President of the Australian Primary Principals Association Malcolm Elliott said while school refusal had been an issue in the past, it had been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic and associated lockdowns.

"COVID pressures tested every element (of schooling) and many more cases of school refusal are emerging," he told AAP.

"The issue of school refusal has really gained prominence following the period of lockdowns when there was uncertainty in school communities about how children and families would respond.

"It was hoped that children would flock back to school in regular numbers, and that was the expectation but it was not the case."

Mr Elliott said there were a number of reasons as to why students would not want to come back to schools.

However, he said anxiety was one of the major factors as to why school refusal was taking place.

"What we did find was some students took a long time to come back, and that meant schools were trying to make contact (with families), getting assurances they would come back, but they were not returning."

The committee is expected to hand down its final report on school refusal by March next year.


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