Nicholas Jones

Nicholas Jones is the New Zealand Herald’s education reporter.

Schools play catch up for lost kids

Annual survey shows government-financed attendance service is having little effect on truancy numbers.

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Schools are under pressure to cope with the catch-up needed for the estimated 73,500 children who miss school each day.

The Government has pumped millions of dollars into a new school-attendance service but a new report shows it has not reduced the number of frequent truants.

School absences create problems for those with good attendance as teachers put more time into helping less diligent students.

An annual Ministry of Education attendance survey issued yesterday gathered information from 1950 state and state-integrated schools on student attendance over a week in June last year.

The total national absence rate last year was put at 10.1 per cent, or about 73,500 students each day.

This was up slightly from 2012, but similar to previous years.

About 17,500 of those students were away from school without justification - a rate similar to that of previous years.

Truancy peaks on Friday and Mondays, as do "justified absences", the report shows.

At the beginning of last year, the Government created the Integrated Attendance Service, and an additional $4 million a year has been put aside to reduce truancy.

The new report shows the frequent truant rate has not gone down since 2011, and 1 per cent - or 7642 students - were unjustifiably absent for three or more days in the survey week.

The principal of Bairds Mainfreight Primary School in Otara, Alan Lyth, is one of several school leaders concerned over the attendance service.

Yesterday he told the Herald things had not improved and the old service had been better for his decile one school.

"The hard to move [students] are just as hard to move, and we've had less success with some of the ones that might have been a bit more tractable."

The Ministry of Education's head of sector enablement and support, Katrina Casey, said the attendance service targeted the most at-risk students and cases of chronic non-attendance, and was " not designed to deal with children who occasionally don't go to school".

"This remains the responsibility of schools and parents."

The attendance survey was a statistical snapshot of one week in the year. Ms Casey said feedback from schools and quarterly reports indicated the new service was operating well.

When the same survey was released last year a front-page Herald article outlined schools' concern with "parent-condoned truancy", including parents pulling kids from school to take advantage of cheap overseas holiday deals.

Last month Sandy Pasley, principal of Auckland's Baradene College and vice-president of the Secondary Principals' Association, told TVNZ the holiday issue was worsening.

Parents can be prosecuted if their child is away from school without good reason, but this rarely happens.

Skipping school

• 73,500 children miss school each day, survey estimates, and about 17,500 of those students are away from school without reason or notice.

• Absences peak on Friday and Mondays, and school leaders say parents often excuse kids from school for no good reason.

• Frequent truancy has not gone down since 2011, and about 7642 students were unjustifiably absent for three or more days in the survey week.

• The problem is nearly twice as bad for Maori students, and significantly worse at low-decile schools and at Year 13.

Absence Rates by Ethnic Groups -

Absence Rates by Decile -

Absence Rates by Current Year Level -

DocumentCloud embed -

- NZ Herald

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