School Attendance Exemptions for Special Needs Students

Over the past few months we have been battling with the “schooling system” in order to be able to school Isy part time and be able to home tutor her on the days she does not attend school.


The department of education have been active in trying to prevent truancy (missing school for the wrong reasons), whether by fault of the student or parent. It is nice to know that they have put some rules and guides into place so as to deter non attendance, however sometimes rules can be red tape for those trying to do the right thing.

At a meeting with the school principle we were told quite bluntly that Isy had to attend school full time or be home schooled full time, no exceptions! We were aghast, as Isy for the 8 years she had been attending school had always been enrolled part time so she could get her one on one home tutoring.

There began the battle, Liz spent many hours on the phone and visiting people, consulting with various officials including the minister of education to find out exactly where we stood. We had heard unofficially that an exemption could be applied for for the right set of circumstances but we did not get much help in finding out exactly what needed to be done and how to apply for the exemption.

Alas after a long and arduous process we were able to get all the facts and make an application, to which we were granted what we had already been doing for the past 8 years.

So if you’re thinking about going down that road here is a bit of a guide on what you need to do:

  • Talk to your school principle, they may be willing to help! This should be your first step as this process is usually done in consultation with the school.
  • Approach DECS (South Australia) or your state education governing authority. Access their website and get all the info so you know where you stand
  • There are forms and guides that can be downloaded from the DECS site (or interstate equivalent) to apply for permanent or temporary exemptions.

The exemption is normally applied for as a temporary exemption for children between the ages of 6 to 16. There is a permanent application usually used for students at the age of 16 for employment programs and alike.

For those in South Australia there is an excellent guide on the DECS website – The Principal’s Guide to Exemptions – which can be downloaded. For those in other states check out your Department of Education website in your location.

Below are some excerpts which may apply to parents / carers for children in the same or similar situation as Isy:

“If the temporary exemption is for more than one month the application requires approval by the Director, Site and Regional Improvement and Accountability (Central Delegate).
For Principal approved temporary exemptions (less than one month), although it is not compulsory it is advisable for Principals to use the ED175 exemption application form.”

“Conditional or Part Time Exemptions
The Conditional Exemption Process recognises that that while part-time attendance is outside the regulations; there are exceptional and negotiated circumstances where it may be approved. It is distinct from the normal exemption process in that it addresses the requirement for documentation and case-planning for student programmes which would require the student to attend only part of the day/week.
The intent of any Conditional Exemption is to have the student transitioning back to fulltime attendance over the period of the exemption.
Principals must ensure that all Conditional Exemption plans comply with the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act as described in “On the Same Basis – DD standards””

Info from DECS website : http://www.decs.sa.gov.au

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