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School - do I have to go?

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School - do I have to go? 

Legal Information

When is it compulsory to go to school?

If you are between six and 15 you must attend school (unless you have completed Year 10).

This is also known as the compulsory school age phase.

Can I apply for an exemption from the compulsory school age phase?

You can apply for an exemption for compulsory attendance if you can satisfy the Department of Education, Training and Employment that you

  • can't attend a state or non-state school
  • it would be unreasonable in all the circumstances to make you attend.

You parents must apply to the Department of Education, Training and Employment in a special form and they will be asked to provide all the relevant information that is reasonably needed to make a decision about the application. The department can give your parents a written notice asking for more information and if they do not respond to that in the time set, then the application can be treated as having lapsed.

The decision by the department must be provided to you as soon as practicable and must state:

  • the day the exemption issued
  • your name
  • how long it will apply for if it is not indefinite
  • any reasonable conditions that apply.

The department can also issue a show cause notice if the grounds for the exemption no longer apply or if the conditions of the exemption have not been followed properly. Exemptions can be cancelled by the department.

There are also some situations where the compulsory schooling requirements do not apply including where:

  • it doesn't fit with a Commonwealth law
  • you are registered for home education
  • you have been suspended or excluded from attending school (in certain situations there should be access to an educational program)
  • you are sick or suffering from an infectious disease or condition
  • your enrolment application is pending
  • you have made an arrangement to become a apprentice or trainee under the Vocational Education Training and Employment Act 2000(Qld).

You should approach a guidance officer, principal or your local Education Queensland District Office to discuss whether you can apply for an exemption.

Do my parents have to make sure that I attend school?

Yes. Your parents must make sure that you are enrolled and attending (or going) to school on each school day. It is your parents' responsibility to make sure you are attending. If they don't they can get in trouble with Education Queensland unless they can show that they have a reasonable excuse.

A reasonable excuse could include

  • if your parents have broken up and one parent thinks that the other parent is sending you to school
  • if your parent is not able to control your behaviour to make sure you go to school.

If someone working for the Department of Education, Training and Employment becomes aware that your parents haven't enrolled you in school or are not sending you to school then they can issue an information notice telling them about what they should be doing, can have a talk to them and eventually can issue a warning notice. If they don't follow the warning notice they can face a fine and the penalties for this increase the more times they get in trouble.

If you are regularly absent from school when you should be going, without reasonable and adequate excuse, this may result in the school being required to provide information to the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services. The Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services may then investigate whether or not there are child protection issues involved like neglect.

These laws define who is your parent to include:

  • your mother or father
  • a person who exercises parental responsibility for you
  • a person recognised as a parent under Aboriginal tradition or Torres Strait Islander custom
  • a person who has guardianship under child protection law or an order of a court.

What are the earning or learning education reforms?

In 2006 the state government introduced a new compulsory participation requirement that means all young people must participate in 'learning or earning'.

These changes were announced in 2002 and are said to be based on national and international evidence that young people who complete 12 years of education have greater opportunities for further education and sustainable employment.

This means that after you stop being of compulsory school age (i.e. you reach 16 years or you finish year 10) you still must participate in education and training for another two years which could be

  • an educational program provided by a state, non-state school or university
  • a vocational course, apprenticeship, traineeship or employment skills development program.

This phase ends when you

  • gain a Senior Certificate
  • gain a particular vocational qualification (like a Certificate III or higher level)
  • attend for two years after you stopped being of compulsory school age or
  • you turn 17 years.

Can I apply for an exemption from the compulsory participation phase?

You or your parents can apply for a full or partial exemption for compulsory participation if you can satisfy the Department of Education, Training and Employment that you

  • can't attend a state or non-state school
  • it would be unreasonable in all the circumstances to make you attend.

This application must say what period of time you want the exemption for. It must include a signed consent of your parent unless you can show that this would be inappropriate like where you are living independently without a parent or guardian.

The department can give you or your parents a written notice asking for more information and if that is not responded to in the time set then the application can be treated as having lapsed.

The decision by the department must be provided to you as soon as practicable and must state

  • the day the exemption issued
  • your name
  • whether it is full or partial (if partial how you are excused)
  • whether it applies until the end of the compulsory participation phase or an earlier stated time
  • any relevant and reasonable conditions that apply.

You may not have to comply with the compulsory participation phase if you

  • work in paid employment for a minimum of 25 hours per week, or
  • have obtained an employment exemption under the Vocational Education and Employment Act 2000.

You should approach a Guidance Officer, Principal or your local Education Queensland District Office to discuss whether you can apply for an exemption.

Do my parents have to make sure I participate in the learning or earning phase?

Yes. Your parents must make sure that you are participating in this compulsory participation phase. If they don't they can get in trouble with Education Queensland unless they can show that they have a reasonable excuse. The penalties for this increase the more times they get in trouble.

A reasonable excuse could include

  • if you parents have broken up and one parent thinks that the other parent is sending you to school
  • if your parent is not able to control your behaviour to make sure you go to school.

If someone working for the Department of Education, Training and the Arts becomes aware that you parents haven't enrolled you in school or are not sending you to school then they can issue an information notice telling them about what they should be doing, can have a talk to them and eventually can issue a warning notice. If they don't follow the warning notice they can face a fine and the penalties for this increase the more times they get in trouble.

If you are regularly absent from participating when you should be going, without reasonable and adequate excuse, this may result in Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services becoming involved. The Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services may then investigate whether or not there are child protection issues but this will depend on your age and the particular circumstances.

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Do I need legal advice?

You may need legal advice if the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services are investigating why you have been absent from school, or if you feel you may be at risk of harm if you attend school.

If you or your parents want to apply for an exemption from the compulsory school age phase or the compulsory participation 'learning or earning' phase, you can talk to a Guidance Officer, Principal or your local Education Queensland District Office.

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Where can I get legal advice

Legal Aid Queensland may provide legal advice about issues related to education and school.

The following organisations may also be able to give legal advice on your matter.

Youth Advocacy Centre provides a community legal and social welfare service for young people under 17.

Lawmail is a legal advice service for young people that provides free legal advice to people under 18 via email.

Logan Youth Legal Service provides legal information and advice to young people aged under 17.

Community legal centres give legal advice on a range of topics. Contact them to see if they can help with your matter.

Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private solicitor for advice or representation.

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Who else can help?

These organisations may also be able to assist with your matter. They do not provide legal advice.

Kids Helpline provides 24 hour free and confidential telephone, online and email counselling service for children aged 5 to 18 years.

Department of Education, Training and Employment includes Education Queensland and can make decisions about whether you should be exempt from from participating in school or other compulsory training.

Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services is the government department responsible for protecting children and young people from harm or who are at risk of harm, and whose parents cannot provide adequate care or protection for them.

Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian is an independent organisation not influenced by any government department, working to improve the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable children and young people in Queensland.

Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal can review some decisions that have been made about children and young people.

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Disclaimer - Copyright © 1997 Legal Aid Queensland. This content is provided as an information source only and is not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should seek legal advice from a lawyer. Legal Aid Queensland believes the information is accurate as at 1 July 2007 but accepts no responsibility for any errors or omissions and denies all liability for any expenses, losses, damages and costs you might incur due to the information being inaccurate or incomplete in any way.



Last modified: 2 May 2013 1:42PM
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School - do I have to go?