Last updated 12 June 2016

Compulsory school age

Parents have a legal responsibility to ensure that their children receive an appropriate education. In general this means that, unless they have a reasonable excuse, parents of a child of compulsory school age must:

A child is ‘of compulsory school age’ from six years and six months until they turn 16 or they complete year 10 (whichever comes first) (s 9 Education Act).

A reasonable excuse includes:

  • the child lives with parent A and parent B has good reason to believe parent A is sending the child to school
  • in all the circumstances, the parent is not reasonably able to control the child’s behaviour to the extent necessary to ensure they go to school.

The maximum penalty is currently $706.30 and $1413.60 for each subsequent offence (including where a different child of the parent is involved).

A parent of a child who is of compulsory school age must not employ the child, or allow the child to be employed, during the time the child is required to attend a state school or non-state school, unless the parent has a reasonable excuse. The current maximum penalty is $706.30 (s 230 Education Act).

Prep

Prep is the first year of schooling in Queensland and is a full-time program. Children must be five years old by 30 June in the year they enrol. However, there is no legal obligation to enrol a child in prep or for them to attend where the student is below compulsory school age, and parents cannot be prosecuted if their child does not attend prep.

Early entry to prep may be considered in very specific circumstances and where it is in a child’s best educational interests in consultation with the principal.

Delayed entry to prep (and subsequently year 1) is a decision for the child’s parents. They may feel that their child is not ready to start school because they are not yet ready to cope with the demands of going to school or they have developmental issues. This is a parental decision and they do not have to discuss delayed entry with a school principal, subject to the child being enrolled once they are six years and six months old.

Kindergarten

Approved kindergarten programs help to prepare children for the prep year. Children must be at least four years old by 30 June in the year they attend the program. Kindergarten programs are not compulsory.

Long day-care kindergarten, family day care, outside-school-hours care/vacation care and limited-hours care or occasional care can refuse to take a child whose immunisations are not up to date.

Compulsory participation phase

The compulsory participant phase is after a young person has turned 16 or completed year 10 until the young person:

  • gains a certificate of achievement, senior statement, certificate III or certificate IV
  • has participated in eligible options for two years after turning 16 or finishing year 10
  • turns 17 years.

Eligible options include:

  • continuing at school or going on to TAFE or university
  • taking up a vocational course, apprenticeship, traineeship or employment skills development program (s 232 Education Act).

Parents can be fined if their child is not enrolled or does not go to school, or does not attend an eligible option unless the parent has a reasonable excuse. Parents should explain any absences to the school or other relevant entity as soon as possible.

A reasonable excuse includes:

  • the child lives with parent A and parent B has good reason to believe parent A is sending the child to school
  • in all the circumstances, the parent is not reasonably able to control the child’s behaviour to the extent necessary to ensure they go to school.

The maximum fine is currently $706.30 for the first offence and $1413.60 for each subsequent offence (including where a different child of the parent is involved).

Exemptions from attendance

For either children of compulsory school age or young people in the compulsory participation phase, parents can apply for an exemption using the relevant form when their child cannot attend, or it would be unreasonable in all the circumstances for their child to attend school or an eligible option for more than 10 consecutive school days. This could include illness, family-related matters, and cultural or religious reasons.

Completion of an exemption form is not necessary for some situations, such as where a child has been suspended or excluded, or if they have an illness that requires them to be away from school for less than 10 consecutive days.

Non-state schools

A parent meets their legal responsibility if their child is enrolled in and attending a non-state school. The operation of non-state schools is not generally covered by the Education Act. The parents’ relationship with the school is a contractual one, usually including the school’s policies and procedures.

Non-state schools will have their own policies and procedures regarding the running of the school. These policies usually include issues such as homework, drugs, dress codes, religious instruction, as well as behaviour management/discipline issues. It is important that parents and students understand the school’s expectations before enrolling.

Non-state schools are subject to other important laws, such as anti-discrimination legislation and common law principles of duty of care and due process and procedural fairness.

Home schooling

A parent can meet their legal responsibility by home schooling their child, but they must apply to be registered for home education. The Department of Education and Training has a Home Education Unit to assist parents to comply with legislative procedures.