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Principals supportive of $70 truancy fine principle

Mooroopna school principals respond to new $70 fine for parents of truants that can be issued since reforms came into effect on March 1.

ALEXANDRA BOLKAS March 6, 2014 4:04am

Goulburn Valley school principals say fining parents whose children miss school without a good reason sends the right message about learning, but might be difficult to enforce.

The $70 fines are part of a Victorian Government crackdown on school truancy announced by Victorian Education Minister Martin Dixon.

Previously, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development had to take parents to court to fine them.

But in September last year the Victorian Parliament passed amendments to the Education and Training Reform Act that meant parents could receive an infringement notice.

Yesterday, two Mooroopna school principals said they welcomed the reforms that came into effect on March 1.

The fine will be issued as a last resort and will apply to parents whose children are absent for at least five days a year and who fail to co-operate with the school to improve attendance.

Mooroopna Park Primary School principal Hayden Beaton said he agreed with the idea behind the reform.

‘‘The idea to get kids to school and put pressure on parents to get kids to school every day is a good thing,’’ Mr Beaton said.

‘‘Schools spend a lot of time chasing up absent students over the phone or sending letters, so this measure could end students having days off for their birthdays.’’

But he said the fine could prove difficult to enforce and would only be issued when all other options were exhausted.

‘‘It will be an interesting process,’’ he said.

‘‘The negative is it could also impact families in financial difficulty.’’

Mooroopna Secondary College principal Gary Fletcher said the school had adopted many of the new attendance guidelines before its introduction this week.

‘‘There is no safe day for missing school as each day a student misses puts them behind,’’ he said.

He said the fine would put added pressure on parents to ensure their children attended school.

But Smith Family general manager Anton Leschen said penalising vulnerable families with a fine was not the best way to achieve greater attendance rates.

‘‘It’s highly likely that families where children regularly truant face a range of serious issues,’’ Mr Leschen said.

‘‘We will get a better result in terms of reducing truancy and in the process make a range of positive long-term changes if we put supports in place to help families across their areas of need.

‘‘A financial penalty is likely to increase a family’s hardship.’’

Parent communication such as letters to parents, school newsletters and brochures explaining when absences are appropriate will rolled out before a fine is issued.

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