Chief Investigators

Prof. Kitty Te Riele, Dr Michael A. Guerzoni, (University of Tasmania); Prof. Anna Sullivan (University of South Australia); Prof. Sharon Bessell (Australian National University); Prof. Daryl Higgins (Australian Catholic University)

Partner Organisations

Allambi Care, Anglicare (NSW West, NSW South and ACT), Berry Street, Commissioner for Children and Young People Tasmania, Key Assets, Life Without Barriers, McKillop Family Services, Stronger Smarter Institute


Australian Research Council - Linkage Grant


The project will investigate why children and young people in care experience are absent from school significantly more than their peers, and what can be done to improve their attendance by schools, carers, education systems, and OOHC systems. These questions will guide the research:

  1. What are reasons for absences from school by students in care?
  2. How do students in care experience and view school attendance and absences?
  3. How do education and OOHC policy and practices impact on school attendance for students in care?
  4. How can schools, carers, education systems, and OOHC systems support school attendance by students in care?


Education is central to securing a better future for students in out-of-home care (OOHC). Much of the research about education for students in care has focused on their educational outcomes, academic attainment, school completion, and entry into post-compulsory education. But attendance as a fundamental enabler for improving such outcomes has been largely overlooked.

Absence from school is associated with increased social isolation, increased likelihood of leaving school early, and reduced academic achievement. Little is known about the reasons for school absences by students in care, and how to address this significant problem. In particular, students' own perspectives are largely invisible.

Any intervention intended to improve school outcomes for students in care has a crucial prerequisite: that these students are actually at school and in class. The project will provide robust evidence about the reasons for school absences of students in care.

Project details

The project will build a picture of why the level of absence from school is high for children in care, using a range of sources of data: children's own voices; detailed absence data; policy audit; and case studies of promising practice. This knowledge will provide policy and practice alternatives to better support these students to attend school.

Partners in this project include providers of OOHC and stakeholders in children's wellbeing: Allambie Care; Anglicare NSW South, NSW West and ACT; Berry Street Victoria; Commissioner for Children and Young People Tasmania; Key Assets, Children's Services Provider; Life Without Barriers; CREATE Foundation; Mackillop Family Services; and Stronger Smarter Institute.

We have developed a comprehensive conceptualisation of five important types of absence from school for students in care:

  • unauthorised absences
  • disciplinary absences
  • part-time enrolment
  • missing from school
  • authorised absences.

These will inform the research approach, nationally and within states and territories, that will be carried out by a range of stakeholders:

  1. National Policy Audit: analyse relevant policies across each state and territory; policy analysis will produce knowledge about the ways policies shape possibilities to improve school attendance for students in care.
  2. Snapshot Attendance Reviews: systematic and comprehensive data about attendance at institutions that provide OOHC with two snapshot reviews to be completed by carers.
  3. Student Voice: two approaches will be used to ensure participatory, rights-based engagement with children and young people to examine students' own experiences of and views about school attendance and absence.
  4. Case studies: to uncover promising approaches to enabling attendance at school, where students in care have positive experiences of support for their attendance.

The reviews will inform the development of a tool that OOHC agencies can use to foster stronger school attendance.

Projected community impact

This research will provide important complex and nuanced understandings about school absence and attendance for students in care. Project findings will support governments to achieve their educational priorities for students in care.


University of Tasmania


Attending school every day counts - but kids in out-of-home care are missing out, The Conversation, 11 May 2023

Te Riele, K., Sullivan, A., Rudling, E., Bessel, S., Higgins, D., & Guerzoni, M. (in press). Being at school: A prerequisite for educational equity. In K. Te Riele et al., (Eds). 2024: Innovative School Reforms - International Perspectives on Reimagining Theory, Policy, and Practice for the Future.

Project timeline

2024 - 2026


For more information contact us via email.

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