School: Attendance

Do I have to go to school?

Every young person of compulsory school age must attend school, whether a government or private school, under the law in Western Australia.


Compulsory school age is:

  • From the beginning of the school year in which the child is aged 5 years and 6 months;
  • Until the end of the school year in which the young person turns 17 and 6 months.


There are some exceptions to this such as when you have obtained special approval by the CEO of the Department of Education. This may be because you are being home educated, have completed your last year of school early or are engaged in an approved course or apprenticeship. See our fact sheet ‘What age can I leave school?‘ for more information.


Each school is required to keep a register of all students enrolled at the school.


Each student is required to attend school on the days the school is open.


The school is required to keep an attendance record for each student.

What happens if I don't go to school?

You can be excused from attending school on school days for health reasons, reasonable cause or for religious or cultural observance.

If the Principal is of the opinion that the reasons for your non-attendance are not genuine or insufficient, your lack of attendance can be referred to the Attendance Panel at the Department of Education, who can look into your non-attendance and write a report advising what course of action needs to be taken either against you or your parents

Attendance Officers

Students who take unexplained absences from school can be picked up by Attendance Officers.


Attendance Officers are given the power to:

  • Stop and detain you if they reasonably believe you to be an ‘absentee student’.
  • Enter any public premises for the purposes of checking whether any ‘absentee student’ is on that premises.
  • Require you to give your full name, address, date of birth and name of school.


If you give the Attendance Officer false details or resist, hinder or obstruct the Attendance Officer you can be charged with an offence.


The Police can also apprehend an ‘absentee student’ and contact their parent or responsible adult to collect them.


Both you and your parents can be charged with failing to attend school.

More Information

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Please note: Laws are subject to change. Last updated November 2015.

Important: This general information is not the same as legal advice. You should speak with a lawyer about your situation. The information is based on a Western Australian context.