SA parents could be fined $5,000 if children miss school under proposed education reforms.

By  Lauren Waldhuter

Plans to fine South Australian parents up to $5,000 if their children do not attend school have been criticised by the education union, as the Government embarks of one of its biggest legislative shake-ups of the system in decades.

The State Government has revealed a collection of draft changes to legislation as it brings early childhood services and education under a single act.

The amendments have a major focus on boosting attendance and include increasing fines for parents whose children skip school from $500 to $5,000.

But vice president of the South Australian arm of the education union Jan Murphy said a hike in fines would be counterproductive.

“We think there are other measures that would be more beneficial,” she said.

“Providing counsellors in all of our schools and providing funding for supporting children’s needs rather than penalising the parents.

“Also if you’re going to penalise a family that’s already under significant financial duress, we can’t see that’s going to have any positive outcome for the students, the family or the school.”

The Government said the changes would also help schools engage parents in the process of improving school attendance rates.

Primary Principals Association vice president Julie Hayes said penalties may be necessary as a last resort.

“School leaders go to a great deal of effort to get children to school in all sorts of ways and involving all sorts of agencies to help parents who are having difficulty with that,” she said.

“But if parents are still recalcitrant after all of those efforts then I think the notion of having a fine may well be an incentive.”

Harsher penalties proposed for abusive parents.

The draft legislation also includes harsher penalties for people who are abusive or threatening while on school grounds, including fines of up to $2,500.


Ms Hayes said the initiative was necessary, as well as plans to give schools greater powers to ban hostile individuals.

“Teachers need to be able to safely remove parents who are being aggressive or outspoken — just give the school some breathing space,” she said.

“We can bar them for a day but sometimes the issues are grave enough to need a longer time away from school.”

The Government said the changes would also make it easier for schools to keep well performing staff.

Department must increase number of permanent positions: union.

But Ms Murphy from the education union said those changes must focus on making more contract positions permanent.

“There is a growing number of contract teachers in our system,” she said.

“In fact the percentage of teachers who are permanent in our system is decreasing, it’s down as low as about 75 per cent.

“We think that’s a key thing that needs to be addressed.”

The Government said the reforms also improved the way information was shared when a student changes schools, improved staff attraction packages, explicitly prohibited corporal punishment, and “modernised” the way underperforming teachers were dealt with by the department.

The State Government is simultaneously consulting on a separate plan to give more hiring and firing power to principals.

This post originally appeared on ABC News.

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