School refusal affects two in five families: survey

Australian Greens

The Greens say new polling showing that two in five families are experiencing school refusal/school can’t reinforces the need for urgent action on the recent Senate inquiry’s recommendations, and adds pressure on Labor to deliver 100% minimum funding to all public schools at the start of the next National School Reform Agreement.

A Greens-commissioned Lonergan poll of 1003 Australian parents of public and private school children found that 39% of all parents of school-age students said their child had been unable to attend school in the past year because of anxiety or stress. The breakdown for public and private schools was 41% and 35% respectively.

As stated by Greens spokesperson on Education (Primary and Secondary), Senator Penny Allman-Payne:

“This polling shows that school can’t is not simply a niche phenomenon experienced by a small minority of school students – it’s a major problem impacting hundreds of thousands of families across the country.

“It should be a wake-up call for governments and education departments that the school system is not capable of responding and adapting to the complex needs of our kids, and that it is increasingly not fit-for-purpose.

“As the Senate inquiry heard, school can’t is an often misunderstood issue that is too readily blamed on disability or mental health challenges, or passed off as misbehaviour.

“But in reality it is the product of an extreme stress response which leaves a child simply incapable of attending school, even though they want to.

“This is a crisis of exclusion. Students are being forced to adjust to the needs of rigid, commodified educational systems and institutions, rather than the other way around – and massive school refusal rates are the result.

“The Greens call upon education ministers to act on the 14 recommendations of the Senate inquiry into school refusal, including establishing a funded peer support organisation for parents and developing a national action plan.

“And we must ensure all public schools are resourced to at least 100% of the Schooling Resource Standard, so that teachers and support staff are able to give every student the attention they need.”

/Public Release. View in full here.