We recognise that addressing the following areas will involve both federal and state/territory governments and their departments and, ultimately, comprehensive policies, procedures and practices operating in schools, hospitals and for students at home. MissingSchool views the COAG framework as a useful basis for this leadership and provisions in national legislation can guide the Commonwealth in identifying the scope of the problem through ABS protocols and the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability. The Commonwealth’s leadership and commitment will provide impetus for state and territory progress.
This is the start of changes we want for seriously sick kids
- Students with significant illness or injury need to be recognised as a group, and counted. Currently, they are overlooked by most data collection processes, and sometimes explicitly excluded. State and territory census processes – as well as national survey processes such as the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data, the ABS Profiles of Disability, and the ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers – should be amended, or new processes developed, to specifically identify school-age students who are absent from school because of significant illness or injury, and to assist in monitoring their progress.
- State and territory education authorities need to develop legislation and policies which explicate where the responsibility lies for supporting the education of students who miss school because of significant illness or injury, whether they are in hospital, recovering at home or receiving treatment interstate. Currently, there is widespread confusion around the roles played by – or expected of – the student’s regular school, hospital schools, parents, private tutors, and charitable providers.
- State and territory education authorities need to ensure that legislation and policies are consistent across jurisdictions, as many students who seek specialist medical care for significant illness or injury have short- and long-term treatment interstate. This, along with improved data collection and other measures, should be raised at the COAG Education Council for discussion and agreement by all state and territory authorities, and would ideally interface with the COAG Health Council.
- State and territory education authorities should consult with all stakeholders (including families and students) to develop best practice and processes consistent with their legal responsibility to students with significant illness or injury. These should uphold the principles of access, inclusion and equity. Policies, processes and practice should be supported by reporting and monitoring mechanisms to ensure compliance and accountability. Research shows that even when clear policies are in place, non-compliance in practice is common.
- State and territory health and education authorities must formalise collaborative arrangements to assist in the care of a student who misses school because of significant illness or injury. The current inadequacy or absence of arrangements means that the burden of navigating bureaucracies with competing priorities falls to families who are already under significant stress. Formal policy would speak to, for example, instituting Memorandums of Understanding, placement of education outreach staff in hospitals and medical settings, more effective operational arrangements between hospital schools, hospitals, the students’ regular schools and their home, and guidelines for essential cross-departmental (and interstate) documentation and communication. This recognises access to appropriate education as an important component of healthcare, enables the student to maintain academic continuity, and nurtures the student’s social and emotional wellbeing through connection into their learning community.