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Wellbeing critical to student engagement says new Senate report into School Refusal

Save the Children welcomes school refusal report recommendations including the call for a national action plan. 
11 August 2023

Save the Children welcomes the Senate Inquiry report into the national trend of school refusal and its recommendation for a national action plan.

The leading child rights organisation is also encouraged by the report’s recognition that schools, education systems and governments should urgently focus more on student wellbeing and engagement as critical outcomes of education in its own right, with the report stating “school refusal has a profound effect on young people's health and wellbeing.”

Save the children in its submission to the inquiry warned that the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to turn this significant existing problem into a “generational rupture”. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted children’s learning, weakened their connection to schools, placed severe pressure on their mental health and wellbeing, and significantly increased disengagement, however the issues facing children and their engagement in school existed well before 2020 which is recognised in the report. 

Matt Gardiner, CEO of 54 reasons, which delivers Save the Children’s services in Australia, said the COVID-19 pandemic has had a clear and undeniable impact on student’s engagement with education but this report sets out a promising framework on how to move forward. 

“All children have a right to education that is inclusive and meets their individual circumstances, including the right to receive the support they need in order to access and engage with education,”  said Mr Gardiner. 

“Disengagement from learning is widespread across Australia, and up until now has consistently received little focus and attention from governments and the public relative to the significant harm it causes. 

“This Senate Committee report provides the Federal Government with a clear mandate and bipartisan support to take a leadership role in addressing school refusal and disengagement at a national level, and we support the report’s recommendation to create a national plan to tackle the issue.” 

Save the Children and 54 reasons have a long history of working in this space, including through Hands on Learning, a practical school program that builds school engagement and attendance by creating opportunities for students to discover their talents and experience success.

Hands on Learning's Head of School Education and Engagement, Cameron Wiseman said the program is an evidence-based in-school tool for re-engaging children and young people. 

“The Hands-on Learning program has shown that engaging students who are experiencing anxiety around school and deemed at-risk, in hands-on activities that are meaningful to them, can not only change their relationship with themselves, but their experiences with school and education as well,”  said Mr. Wiseman. 


MEDIA CONTACT: Mala Darmadi on 0425562113 or


Save the Children is a leading global non-government organisation focused on children’s rights that has been active in Australia for over 100 years. 54 reasons delivers Save the Children’s services in Australia, working alongside children and their families and communities in accordance with the 54 articles in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Save the Children and 54 reasons’ submission into the Senate Inquiry into the national trend of school refusal can be found here. Save the Children’s True Cost of Covid report can also be accessed

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