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School exclusion for health reasons

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Sometimes children must be kept away from school or childcare if, for example, they have a certain type of infectious disease. Here is some information about what will happen if your child needs to be excluded from school.

Should I keep my child home from school?

Here’s a list of common childhood illnesses and their recommended exclusion periods.

For information on arrangements for schools in response to COVID-19, visit healthdirect’s COVID-19 pages.

What are school exclusions for health reasons?

If a child has an infectious condition, you may be required to keep them away from school or childcare to stop the condition spreading to other children or people in the community.

This may be for a period of time until your school or childcare facility lets you know that they are able to return.

Who decides if they will be excluded and how will I know?

Regulations vary between different states. Generally, states have a process and guidelines on how to minimise the chances of infection at schools and childcare centres. Regulations and guidelines usually explain how parents and caregivers will be informed. See ‘Further information’ below on the process used in your state or territory.

For how long will my child be excluded from school?

This depends on how easily the infection could spread, how severe the disease is and the length of the incubation period. Many schools have a written policy about exclusion for health reasons, based on government guidelines for recommended minimum exclusion periods. Sometimes another person who has been in contact with an infected child, such as a teacher, will be excluded too.

Some terms you may need to know

Infectious disease – a disease caused by a germ that can be spread from one person to another

Incubation period – the time between exposure to an infection and when the first symptoms show

Infectious period – the period of time during which someone who has an infectious disease can spread it to another person

Chain of infection – NHMRC (the National Health and Medical Research Council) describes this as “The steps involved in the spread of germs":

  1. The germ has a source.
  2. The germ spreads from the source.
  3. The germ infects another person.

Exclusion period – the period of time that your child will be asked to stay away from school. If you have written clearance from a doctor or public health facility that your child is not infectious any more, you can give it to your school. Your school will then let you know when your child can come back.

Notifiable diseases – specific diseases the school will need to notify government authorities about. This is so they can monitor outbreaks and put arrangements in place to prevent further infections.

Sending your child back to school

Your school will most likely have a written exclusion policy which will let them know how long your child should be away from school. Sometimes this can be difficult for a parent who is busy with work and other commitments; however, it is important for the school to enforce their policy. This should be based on national health guidelines to protect other children and staff at the school and prevent the disease spreading to the wider community.

What if I disagree with the school’s decision?

Your school may ask for a medical certificate from your doctor, but if the medical certificate doesn't meet the requirements of the school's exclusion policy, the school may still exclude your child and ask for them to be cared for at home. It is the doctor’s job to make the diagnosis, but it’s your school’s job to follow exclusion guidelines to protect other children and staff. If you have any further questions or concerns, it’s best to contact your local public health unit - see the information below about your state or territory.

Further information

More information about school exclusions in your state or territory can be found below:

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: May 2020

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