Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

'Parent-condoned truancy' as children removed from school for cheap holidays

Principals say both rich and poor families pull their children from school for travel. Photo / Thinkstock
Principals say both rich and poor families pull their children from school for travel. Photo / Thinkstock

Children being taken out of school by families to go on holiday account for 10 per cent of all time students are truant from school.

The information has been gathered for the first time after the Ministry of Education last year introduced a system to record holidays during term time, which is considered an unjustifiable absence.

Previously, New Zealand schools could record holidays during term as justified or unjustified.

Principals say both rich and poor families pull their children from school for travel, which has been termed "parent-condoned truancy".

It is an international issue - a September 2013 change in Britain has seen parents facing a fine if they let children skip school in term time.

More than 50,000 tickets were issued in the UK in 2014/15. In May, a father who refused to pay a fine for taking his daughter out of school for a trip to Florida won a ruling in his favour at the High Court.

In New Zealand, holidays in term time last year accounted for 10.2 per cent of time unjustifiably absent, the latest school attendance report outlines.

The report collated attendance returns from 1887 state and state-integrated schools, accounting for about 634,000 students.'

Principals say both rich and poor families pull their children from school for travel. Photo / Thinkstock
Principals say both rich and poor families pull their children from school for travel. Photo / Thinkstock

Who is late or skipping class?

Other report findings include:

• Females in secondary schools have lower attendance rates than males, with the difference largest in Year 13 where 46.8 per cent of females attend regularly, compared to 52.3 per cent of males.

• Girls are late to more classes from Year 1 to 6, with boys late more often in Year 7 and above.

• Asian students had the highest regular school attendance at 80 per cent, followed by Pakeha (73 per cent), Pasifika (61 per cent) and Maori (57 per cent).

• Just over 77 per cent of students at decile 10 schools attend regularly, compared to 57 per cent at decile 1 schools.

Regional differences

The report also looked at regional differences, and found:

• The Nelson/Marlborough/West Coast area had the highest percentage of students attending regularly (73 per cent), with Tai Tokerau/Northland the lowest at 61 per cent.

• Wellington had the highest levels of students coming late to class (1.6 per cent), with Otago/Southland the lowest (0.9 per cent).

Truancy and exclusions

Results from a separate national attendance survey of state and state-integrated schools that ran over a week in June last year have also been released.

Per day, 30,398 students were unjustifiably absent (4.1 per cent ). This compared to 4.6 per cent in 2014 and 3.9 per cent in 2013.

The frequent truancy rate - students truant for three or more days in the survey week - was 1.2 per cent. That rate was worse for Maori and Pasifika students (2 per cent and 1.5 per cent).

Labour's education spokesman Chris Hipkins said truancy rates remained high, despite reducing truancy being one of National's commitments in 2008.

"National committed to tackling this problem in 2008. Eight years on there's still been no follow through."

Education Minister Hekia Parata said there was more to be done on truancy, particularly for Maori and Pasifika.

"That's why we're encouraging young people to see the relevance of formal education, and stay in class longer through programmes like Year 9 Plus and Count Me In."

Parata released figures that showed student stand-downs, suspensions and exclusions were at their lowest levels since records began 16 years ago.

Since 2008, the number of suspensions has fallen by 40 per cent, stand-downs have dropped by 30 per cent, and exclusions have fallen by 35 per cent.

However, the number of expulsions is roughly the same as in 2008.

An exclusion terminates a student's enrolment aged under 16, and expulsion terminates enrolment for those aged 16 and over.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 01 Oct 2016 23:56:14 Processing Time: 576ms