Poverty is one of the factors stopping Rotorua students from regularly going to school, according to local principals.

Just released figures showed just 62.6 per cent of students in the Rotorua district regularly attended school last year.

Students present more than 90 per cent of the 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. Just 54.7 per cent of Rotorua's Maori students and 55.2 per cent of Pasifika students were regulars at school in 2015.


Western Heights Primary School principal Brent Griffin said attendance problems came back to adults and poverty was "definitely" a main factor.

Even though the kids loved being at school, they couldn't always get there, he said.

"There are a lot of factors that stop them arriving, a lot of them turn up late, between 9.30am to 11.30am which creates all kinds of issues.

"There are lots of excuses, they hadn't had breakfast on time or their school uniform wasn't ready."

He said those children often missed an entire numeracy or literacy section.

"When you have a 5 or 6-year-old getting themselves ready, that's very sad. They are getting themselves dressed and walk themselves to school."

He said the school had one on ones with some families to try and help them structure their homes better.

"We have our school social worker, we have funds to ensure the kids are fed lunch."

Owhata School principal Bob Stiles said one of the biggest problems his school had recently was the city's housing shortage.

"We are finding people living in other people's garages because they can't find a house.

"Parents are forced to move to the other side of town, but they want to keep their children with us, but they can't afford to travel to school, so they don't come."

He said the school provided food for those who couldn't afford it and had put on a free bus service from Pohutukawa Drive a few years ago.

Rotorua Lakes High School principal Bruce Walker said a lot of absences were parent condoned. Parents thought a day off here and there was fine but those days added up.

He said some Year 12 girls were often kept off school to babysit or help with family functions.

"If you don't have a clothes dryer so you can't dry the uniform, there's all sorts of reasons like that."

If students came from a dysfunctional family they might not be woken up for school.

"I just think schools and families need to talk to each other and work together."

Lakes High monitored attendance and sent letters home if a student's attendance dropped below 70 per cent.

If it didn't improve the student was taken off the roll and the family would have to go in to re-enrol them.

Te Taumata o Ngati Whakaue Trust general manager Roana Bennett said poverty was a factor.

"Not having a car, not having the money to do things, creates an environment of stress. Many of our young people are living in a state of stress.

"Poverty is a barrier to education, but it's not impossible to overcome. Education is the key to overcoming poverty.

"Our teachers' roles are in the classrooms. It's up to the rest of us to support our children to attend school, to engage and to actively participate in school on a daily basis."

- Additional reporting by Kim Fulton