Student attendance levels at Warrnambool's four secondary schools have dropped over the past year due to higher school refusal rates, illness and COVID-19 isolation.
New data from the My School website showed Emmanuel College had a student attendance rate of 85 per cent in semester one of 2022, compared to 91 per cent in 2021.
At Brauer College in 2022 there was an 85 per cent attendance rate compared to 88 per cent in 2021, while Warrnambool College had 86 per cent attendance in 2022 compared to 88 per cent in 2021.
King's College had an attendance rate of 95 per cent in semester one 2022 compared to 97 per cent in 2021.
Emmanuel College principal Peter Morgan said its data was a combination of school refusal, illness or COVID-19 isolation and parent sanctioned absences for students to take time off during the school term.
"We've seen a change post COVID," Mr Morgan said. "We've seen a difference in attendance and in particular we've seen an increase in what I believe is a statewide phenomenon of school refusal."
He said some students had difficulty returning to school full-time after two years of home learning. Some now attend the Victorian Virtual School full-time, while others study part time at Emmanuel and the virtual school.
He said a handful of its students had chosen to study virtually which was consistent across the state as schools returned to the classroom. "COVID and remote learning have really changed the dynamics around learning and some students' attendance," he said. "It has changed the mindset for lots of people around how learning can occur."
Mr Morgan said the numbers suggested a small increase in parent sanctioned absences with some families opting to travel outside school holidays and with the rising cost of living there may be an "even greater pressure" to holiday during the term.
"What will be really important is the 2023 data to know whether or not we've got any form of genuine trend continuing or if 2022 was a real blip on the radar, very much influenced over what has happened over the last year," he said. "My instinct is this year has already started differently and better."
King's College principal Allister Rouse said it hadn't noticed any significant change in attendance coming out of COVID-19.
"Last year we followed the government rules where you had to isolate and people had to report that to the school and some of that is reflected in there as well," he said.
Warrnambool and Brauer colleges were contacted for comment.
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