Attending school is compulsory for all compulsory school age children - that is, children aged between 6 and 16 years [Education Act 1972 (SA) s 5]. Each child of compulsory school age is required to be enrolled at a primary or secondary school and if absent from school the parent must, within a reasonable time, give a written explanation for the absence [Education Act 1972 (SA) s 76(2)(c)].
There are now provisions requiring children to remain in full time education until they turn 17. Under the Education Act 1972 children of compulsory education age (i.e. 16) must remain in full time education or training until they turn 17 or gain a qualification.
It is an offence for a child not to attend school without good reason (e.g. illness or other reasons that have been officially approved, see Education Regulations 2012 reg 68). Where a child fails to attend without good reason each parent is guilty of an offence [Education Act 1972 (SA) s 76(3)]. The maximum penalty for this offence is $500.
Under the Education Act 1972 (SA) a child of compulsory school or education age who is habitually or frequently absent from school or an approved learning program without a valid excuse is guilty of truancy [s 79]. A child or young person of compulsory school age who is persistently absent from school without a satisfactory explanation is also regarded as being 'at risk' for the purposes of the Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017 (SA) s 18(1)(e).
Any authorised officer (for example, a police officer or a school attendance officer) who sees a child of compulsory school or education age in a public place during normal school hours has the authority to stop and ask the child’s name, age and address and why they are absent from school [s 80]. A police officer can, without a warrant, take a child who is reasonably suspected of being a truant to their home or school [Education Act 1972 (SA) s 80].
Under section 78 of the Education Act 1972 (SA) it is an offence to employ a child of compulsory school or education age during school hours or during hours at which participation in an approved learning program is required. The maximum penalty for this offence is $5000.