Kim Fulton is a NZME. News Service regional reporter

Maori school attendance lowest

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Mount Maunganui College principal Russell Gordon says most absences are for legitimate reasons. PHOTO/FILE
Mount Maunganui College principal Russell Gordon says most absences are for legitimate reasons. PHOTO/FILE

Maori students are missing school more often than their peers in Tauranga but schools have measures in place to encourage attendance.

Figures showed 64.4 per cent of students in Tauranga city regularly attended school last year.

Only students who attended more than 90 per cent of school time were considered by the Ministry of Education to have attended regularly.

Maori and Pasifika students were less likely to attend school regularly than their peers in Tauranga. Just 56.1 per cent of Maori students and 53.6 per cent of Pasifika students attended school regularly last year.

Mount Maunganui College principal Russell Gordon said the school had an attendance officer who followed up on unexplained absences as well as a truancy officer who covered a number of schools.

Attendance rates at the school were in the mid-nineties. If there was a disparity between Maori and non-Maori attendance, it was only slight, Mr Gordon said. The attendance officer knew which students were prone to missing school and targeted them.

Mr Gordon said students had to give up their lunchtime each time they missed class. The punishment had a profound impact on some students who decided it wasn't worth it.

However, he said the main reasons for student absences were legitimate such as illness.

Sometimes a family would have the opportunity to go overseas and he accepted that was a form of learning.

Students might also have sports tournaments or a tangi to attend during school time.

Sometime students were asked to mind younger siblings, which might mean leaving class early to pick up a sibling from school. That had been addressed by allowing students from the local primary school to come to the high school to play until the end of the high school day.

Nationally, 69.4 per cent of students attended school regularly last year.Attendance was worst among Maori students, with 56.7 per cent attending regularly.

Figures showed 77.1 per cent of students at decile 10 schools attended more than 90 per cent of the time. That compared to 57.2 per cent of students at decile one schools.

Deciles are a measure of the socio-economic position of a school's student community. Decile one schools have the highest proportion of students from low socio-economic communities.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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