Submission: Inquiry into school refusal

9 December 2022

Response to the Senate inquiry into the National Trend of School Refusal.

Key points

Independent Schools Australia welcomes the opportunity to provide comment on the Senate inquiry into the National Trend of School Refusal as this issue concerns all school sectors. ISA contributes the following key points in relation to this important inquiry:

  • School refusal is evident in both primary and secondary-aged students and is often linked to anxiety and/or depression, disengagement from learning, bullying and other challenging social situations.
  • School refusal impacts educational outcomes and may affect potential post school study or employment opportunities.
  • COVID-19 has been a contributing factor to the growing rate of school refusal, particularly in relation to increased anxiety due to a range of factors such as lockdowns, vaccination mandates, mask wearing, family safety and personal health and wellbeing.
  • Supporting students with school refusal, often associated with mental health conditions, has placed a strain on schools, families and external services. This additional burden on mental health services has resulted in longer wait times.
  • Learning from home has become popular for some students following COVID-19 lockdowns. Independent schools report that some families now expect schools to provide learning online opportunities for their child experiencing school refusal.
  • School refusal can affect parent and carer mental health, wellbeing and employment.
  • School re-engagement following school refusal requires strong relationships and specialised support between schools and families.
  • Key equity groups such as students with disability and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students have particular considerations related to school refusal.