Victorian schools need to call parents sooner if children don’t show up to school. That’s the word from Education Minister James Merlino after the near death of a young boy in a hot car this week.

The order for schools to step up comes after an eight-year-old Melbourne boy was left fighting for life when trapped in his mum’s hot car for several hours on a sweltering hot day. 

Now the Victorian State Government has ordered an urgent review of the current school absenteeism policy to prevent similar accidents.

Last week the unspeakable happened. An eight-year-old boy played a trick on his mum, hiding in the back of her car and missing school drop off. The little boy remained hidden as his mum drove to work, parked and locked the car. The little boy, who the Herald Sun reports, has autism, stayed locked inside the car as temperatures soared over 30 degrees.

The trick was only discovered when teachers quizzed the missing child’s older brother hours later, after noticing he looked upset during the lunch recess. At 2.45pm his mum – who works at another local primary school – was alerted and returned to her car. She found her son unresponsive. The boy was rushed to Royal Children’s Hospital and remains in a serious condition.

Lack of communication a cause for concern

Victoria Police

Many of us were left wondering HOW. How could this have happened? How could a trick go so wrong, so quickly? And how can we ensure this never happens again?

One way is to change the current Victoria state school absenteeism policy. At this stage, Victorian primary schools do not have to notify the parents until day three of a child’s absence. This is even though the roll is taken twice a day in all Victorian classrooms.

The mother of the little boy confirmed that she was not aware that her little boy was not at school. She assumed he jumped out of the car at school drop-off with his other siblings. A SMS or phone call could have prevented this awful situation from happening.

“Three days is too long”

In the aftermath of the accident, the Minister for Education, James Merlino has issued a review of the Victorian school absent policy.

“As a parent to young children, I know three days is too long for a school to be making contact,” Mr Merlino said.

“This policy is out of step with the current practice in our schools. That’s why I have already asked the department to review this part of the absenteeism policy and bring it into line with community expectations.”

In New South Wales, schools do not have to contact parents for two days after an unexplained absence. In Queensland, schools must notify parents on the day of the student’s absence. Hopefully Victoria follows suit and makes this much needed change.

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Author

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe, including her son, daughter, cat, dog, partner and baby #3 who is currently taking up residence on her bladder. When she's not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach or nagging her kids to put on their pants.

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