Latest school attendance figures highlight school refusal epidemic

February 22, 2023 11:00 am in by
Image: Ballarat High School

Ballarat schools are seeing a massive drop in attendance as they struggle to keep students engaged post COVID.

Data released on the My School website reveals that Victorian secondary school attendance has plummeted to a record low with less than half of all students meeting benchmarks last year – a fall from three-quarters in 2019.

The benchmark is met when students attend 90% of classes or more.

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It’s been highlighted that the trend is even being seen in leading high-fee schools such as Ballarat Grammar.

Ballarat Grammar’s attendance level fell by 45% from pre-pandemic levels of 91%.

In one of the more extreme drops recorded locally, Beaufort Secondary College has just 28% of students meeting the benchmark after being at 72% in 2019.

School NameAttendance level* 2019Attendance level* 2022
Ballarat Grammar91%46%
Beaufort Secondary College72%28%
Loreto College79%35%
Damascus College74%32%
Ballarat high School79%47%
St Patrick’s College67%23%
Daylesford Secondary63%34%
Ballarat Clarendon College74%59%
Ballarat Christian College62%53%
* Percentage of students attending more than 90 per cent of the time. Semester one 2019 and Semester one 2022

As per the Herald Sun, Monash University professor and clinical psychologist Nicole Rinehart said the pandemic had directly impacted student attendance rates.

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“As a clinical psychologist who saw vulnerable children through the pandemic, I can absolutely say yes it has had an impact then and now,” she said.

“The impact is not over.”

The evidence has brought into focus the issue of school refusal – a phenomenon happening long before the pandemic.

Australian Catholic University senior lecturer in educational leadership and former principal Dr Paul Kidson said for some students, remote learning was a “safer and more comfortable” alternative.

Dr Kidson said kids who were refusing school shouldn’t be “pushed prematurely”.

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A Ballarat Grammar spokesperson said its attendance levels were also affected by isolation rules, particularly for boarding students.