3.1.10.30 SEAM Requirements

Note: SEAM ceased effective 31 December 2017. The Australian and Northern Territory Governments remain committed to supporting families and communities to get their children to school every day and to improve school attendance in remote communities. Despite the cessation of SEAM, Northern Territory Government Truancy Officers will continue to monitor attendance in select communities and DHS social workers will continue to visit remote communities as part of their general work.

Introduction

Each state and territory has responsibility for setting the compulsory school age and the approval of alternatives to conventional schooling. Enrolment and attendance requirements under SEAM (1.1.S.45) are linked to the relevant state or territory law.

Explanation: Alternatives to conventional schooling may include home schooling or undertaking a full-time traineeship. The alternative must satisfy the requirements of the relevant state or territory law.

This topic covers the following:

  • school enrolment, and
  • school attendance.

School enrolment

SEAM applies to parents:

  • whose home address is in a SEAM location, AND
  • who are receiving a schooling requirement payment, AND
  • who have a schooling requirement child of compulsory school age.

Exception: Where a parent has been living at a temporary address for more than 13 weeks OR provides a temporary address that they will be living at for more than 13 weeks THEN the temporary address will be considered as their home address for SEAM purposes.

Parents with a schooling requirement child of compulsory school age who receive or claim a schooling requirement payment AND who live in a SEAM location (1.1.S.57) may be asked by DHS to provide details of their child's school enrolment.

The enrolment component of SEAM applies irrespective of the location of the school at which the child is enrolled. Payment may be suspended if parents:

  • fail to provide information about enrolment to DHS when asked, AND
  • they do not have a reasonable excuse to account for failing to provide DHS with their child's enrolment details, AND/OR
  • there are no special circumstances such that it is appropriate for the person's payment not to be suspended.

When the parent does comply, payment is restored with full back pay provided the total period of suspension in relation to a specific enrolment notice is no more than 13 weeks.

Parents who are given an enrolment notice are required to provide details of their child's enrolment at a school or, where relevant, advise the DHS that the enrolment component of SEAM does not apply to them as their child is being home schooled.

Example: Mary receives PPS and has 2 children, Bill and Sandra. Mary receives a notice from DHS asking her about Bill and Sandra's enrolment in schooling. Mary advises DHS Bill is registered as a home schooling student and that Sandra attends boarding school.

Parents MUST be given at least 14 days after the notice is given to comply with the notice. This period MAY be extended one or more times if the parent provides DHS with a reasonable excuse or special circumstances that they are unable to comply within 14 days.

Example 1: The parent has recently moved and is in the process of enrolling their child at a local school. The compliance period is extended to provide sufficient time for the parent to finalise the enrolment process, but should be no longer than the period allowed for compliance under state or territory law.

Example 2: The school is closed for the June/July school holiday period and there are no school staff available to take enrolment details. The compliance period is extended until the school opens for enrolments.

An enrolment notice in respect of the same schooling requirement child (1.1.S.50) may be issued to more than one person.

Example: Tom and Linda are separated and have a shared care arrangement for their daughter Michelle. Tom and Linda live in a SEAM trial site and each receive a schooling requirement payment. Michelle is a schooling requirement child of both Tom and Linda so they may each be issued with an enrolment notice if Michelle does not appear to be enrolled in a school.

Once enrolment details have been provided by one parent for the schooling requirement child all parents are accepted as having complied with the enrolment notice, regardless of who provided the details.

Example: Tom had an appointment at his local DHS office shortly after he received the enrolment notice. He provided information about Michelle's enrolment when he attended the office. As DHS now has information about Michelle's enrolment Linda is not required to provide the same information to DHS. Both Tom and Linda are taken to have complied with the enrolment notice.

Where an enrolment notice in respect of the same schooling requirement child is issued to more than one person in respect of the same child AND enrolment details have not been provided ALL the schooling requirement persons may have their payments suspended. All the suspensions in relation to that child MUST be lifted when the enrolment information is provided by any one person.

Enrolment details provided by the parent may be verified by DHS with the relevant education authority.

School attendance

The SEAM school attendance component is designed to complement state and territory strategies already in place to deal with unauthorised non-attendance issues. This recognises that state and territory governments have primary policy responsibility in addressing unauthorised absences from school but MAY, in agreement with the Australian Government, use the SEAM attendance component as an additional tool to assist in addressing difficult individual cases.

In practice, to be in scope for the attendance component of SEAM, a parent:

  • must live in a SEAM location, AND
  • have a schooling requirement child, of compulsory school aged AND
  • receive a schooling requirement payment, AND
  • have a schooling requirement child enrolled at a school that is a participating SEAM school.

Exception: Where a parent has been living at a temporary address for more than 13 weeks OR provides a temporary address that they will be living at for more than 13 weeks THEN the temporary address will be considered as their home address for SEAM purposes.

Example: Diane is in receipt of PPS and lives in a SEAM location. Her son Charlie is enrolled at the local primary school, which is participating in SEAM. Her other child Elizabeth is a boarder at a non SEAM school. The school attendance component of SEAM applies to Diana in relation to Charlie but not in relation to Elizabeth.

School attendance plan

Under SS(Admin)Act Part 3C Division 3A parents may be required to attend a conference and agree to enter into a school attendance plan to improve their child's attendance. A compliance notice may be issued if a parent fails to attend a conference when requested and enter into a school attendance plan, fails to enter into school attendance plan, or fails to comply with their agreed attendance plan. Payment may be suspended if a parent fails to comply with a compliance notice.

Where a parent is within the scope of the school attendance component AND their child's attendance is unsatisfactory, the education authority MAY notify DHS.

Note: The term 'education authority' has been used in these guidelines for ease of understanding however SEAM legislation uses the term 'person responsible for the operation of the school'.

When a formal notice is received by DHS from the relevant education authority that a child's attendance is unsatisfactory, the first steps in the school attendance process are activated.

It is a policy requirement that procedures agreed with the relevant state or territory education authorities will be followed in activating the school attendance process. The agreed procedures will take into account existing state and territory strategies to deal with unsatisfactory attendance plus any additional internal processes that the education authority will undertake in addition to or in lieu of sending a notice to DHS.

Example: An education authority may decide that notifications to DHS will only be made by the truancy unit within the relevant government department to ensure consistency in notifications. This approach may also provide an opportunity for truancy unit staff to ensure that all appropriate action to resolve the issue has been taken by the education authority before DHS is notified.

In practice the SEAM attendance component is currently only applicable in certain locations in the Northern Territory.

Note: The Division 3 of Part 3C of the SS (Admin)Act is not currently in use.

Issuing a conference notice

The education authority may require the parent to attend a conference through the issuing of a conference notice under SS(Admin)Act section 124NB.

SS(Admin)Act section 124NB requires the conference notice to set out:

  • that the person is required to attend a conference with a specified person at a specified place and time,
  • that the purpose of the conference is to discuss their child's school attendance,
  • that the person will be required to enter into a school attendance plan in accordance with section 124NC at the conference, and
  • the consequences of not complying with the notice.

Example: Amy lives in a SEAM location and attends a SEAM school. She has missed 10 days of school without a reasonable explanation. Her mother, Narelle, is issued with a conference notice asking her to meet with Bill Smith, the representative from the Northern Territory Government education authority, at 3 p.m. on Friday at the school to discuss Amy's poor attendance at school and to work out and agree to a school attendance plan.

School attendance plans

Parents issued with a conference notice are informed they will be required to enter into a school attendance plan at the conference.

Notice to enter into an attendance plan may be issued separately under section 124NC, as part of a conference notice under section 124NB, or as a compliance notice issued under section 124ND.

School attendance plans must be in a form approved by the education authority and may cover more than one child of the schooling requirement person. School attendance plans must contain requirements that are appropriate for the purpose of ensuring improved school attendance of the child/ren covered by the plan.

Compliance notices

Where a person: fails to attend a conference as directed, fails to enter into an attendance plan or fails to comply with an agreed attendance plan, the education authority may issue a compliance notice under SS(Admin)Act section 124ND.

SS(Admin)Act section 124ND requires the compliance notice to set out:

  • how to comply with the notice, and
  • the consequences of not complying with the notice.

Example: Jenny receives a notice to attend a conference to discuss her son Tom's attendance. Jenny does not attend the conference, and subsequently receives a compliance notice from the education authority. The notice sets out a new time for Jenny to attend a conference and states that if she does not attend this conference, her schooling requirement support payment may be suspended.

Example: Ronald attends a conference to discuss his daughter Kerri's attendance, and at the conference he agrees to an attendance plan which includes agreeing to walk Kerri to school every day. Following the conference, Ronald does not walk Kerri to school as set out in the attendance plan and as a result Kerri's attendance has not improved. Ronald receives a compliance notice from the education authority advising him that he must comply with the agreed attendance plan. If Ronald does not comply, his schooling requirement support payment may be suspended.

Infringement notices

In some instances, a person may be issued with an infringement notice under the laws of the state or territory in which they live in relation to their child's unsatisfactory attendance at school.

To prevent parents and families from being unduly penalised through both a fine under state/territory legislation and a potential suspension of their schooling requirement payment under SEAM, subsection 124NE(3) provides that when the person has been fined under a law of a state or territory in relation to the failure of the person's child or children to attend school in that state or territory, DHS may determine that a suspension/cancellation of that person's schooling requirement payment should not apply in the particular circumstances of that case.

The circumstances that might be considered would include (but are not limited to):

  • the length of time since the fine was imposed,
  • the history of school attendance by the person's child,
  • the parent's compliance with their attendance plan, and
  • the parent's ongoing efforts to ensure their child attends school.

Example: Sally has been subject to the every child every day (ECED) process due to the prolonged absences of her daughter Anne. Following the ECED process which does not result in any improvement in Anne's school attendance, Sally receives a fine under ECED on Monday 4 November.

When giving Sally the fine, the Senior Attendance and Truancy Officer (SATO) reminds Sally that she is now in-scope for SEAM, and if Anne's attendance does not improve, Sally will be subject to the SEAM process.

On Thursday 7 November, the SATO liaises with the school and discovers that Anne has not been at school for the 3 days and there are no acceptable explanations for her continuing absence.

On Monday 11 November, the SATO issues Sally with a SEAM compulsory conference notice so that they can review the previous attendance plan and the social worker can assess whether Sally and/or Anne may need referrals to other services in order to help Anne and Sally to improve Anne's attendance.

Last reviewed: 5 February 2018