ASPA supports school refusal report's recommendations but urges caution - Education Matters Magazine
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ASPA supports school refusal report’s recommendations but urges caution

The Australian Secondary Principals’ Association (ASPA) has welcomed the Australian Government’s response to the Education and Employment References Committee report: The national trend of school refusal and related matters, published on 12 April.

ASPA President Mr Andy Mison said the association welcomed the measured response from the federal government to the report and its commitment to working collaboratively with states, territories and non-government sectors, noting some of the efforts currently underway.​

Mr Mison said ASPA endorses the original recommendations of the report in principle while urging caution on adding new workload complexity to already overburdened schools.

Andy Mison. Image: ASPA

“We strongly support the notion of establishing a clear, nationally agreed definition of school refusal to underpin further research, data collection and effective policy responses,” Mr Mison said.

“We await with keen interest the interim report from the Australian Education Research Organisation (AERO) on the causes of declining school attendance, due later this year. This will be a critical piece of foundational work.”

However, Mr Mison warned against simply downloading more responsibilities onto schools without providing substantial additional resources and support mechanisms.

“Our school leaders and their hardworking teams are absolutely committed to supporting the learning progress and wellbeing of every student. But they cannot be expected to take this on alone, particularly in the current environment of teacher shortages, record school leader burnout and unsustainable workloads.”

Mr Mison strongly endorsed recommendations for increased cross-portfolio commitment and investment from other government agencies such as health, disability and social services.

“We need to explore a range of options including effective models for alternate schooling pathways and genuine collaboration between the health and education sectors. Schools simply cannot solve this issue alone,” he said.

“Before we add further roles and responsibilities, we need to pause, properly fund our public school systems to be healthy and high-functioning in their core business of educating students. We risk making a difficult situation even worse by rushing in with more complexity and accountabilities.”

Mr Mison said school principals recognised school refusal as a critical issue impacting student wellbeing and engagement that requires a considered, resourced, whole-of-government response.

“Let’s get the foundations right first through research, data, agreed definitions, system coordination and investment, before asking overstretched schools to take on even more.”

The Australian Secondary Principals Association (ASPA) is the national peak body representing secondary school leaders across government schools in every Australian state and territory.

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