Anti truancy work rescues 20 plus students

By Teuila Fuatai

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A Hawke's Bay anti-truancy programme has rescued more than 20 students who almost dropped out of school after failing to abide by normal curriculum standards.

Education Ministry spokesman Carlo Ngerengere said the Rock On programme, implemented in Flaxmere this year, had been a huge success.

"The programme is for those kids for which nothing else has worked.

"They've gone through the school and the community organisations and still have attendance problems."

Without it, they would have nowhere to go, Mr Ngerengere said.

A Wairarapa school announced legal action this week against parents who failed to ensure their child attended school for two-and-a-half years.

Greytown's Kuranui College said after considerable efforts to address "significant non-attendance issues", prosecution was the only option.

Mr Ngerengere said plans were being drawn up to extend the Rock On programme to Hastings and Napier.

The programme enlists police, Child Youth and Family, Ministry of Education, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, Truancy Service and other local youth service providers. They work with schools to identify chronic truants, hold meetings and monitor students and their families.

Truancy figures from a biennial school attendance survey last year showed 29,000 students skipped schools nationwide on any given day.

The Secondary Principals' Association warns that regular truants are more likely to become criminals.

"They're less likely to complete level two NCEA, and therefore not get a job or lead on to an apprenticeship or work," association president Patrick Walsh said.

"Those students [regular truants] are the ones who go on to adulthood with a whole range of other socio-economic disadvantages, which then cost them and the taxpayer a lot of money.

"And those students are the ones who tend to get into criminal offending."

Under the Education Act schools have the power to prosecute parents if they fail to ensure children attend school regularly between age 6 and 16. Prosecutions must be approved by the Education Ministry, which can also prosecute parents if a child aged 6-16 has not been enrolled in school.

However, prosecutions are a last resort and only happen after numerous family, youth and anti-truancy agencies have been consulted.

Only four truancy prosecutions have been taken this year. In 2011, there were 15. Three non-enrolment prosecutions have occurred this year, compared with eight in 2011.APNZ

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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