I put my grandson on the school van on Friday. There was just one other pupil.
The Ministry of Education will not even ask teachers if they are vaccinated. This column predicted many parents would not return their children to school. Yesterday there were more in the van, but it was not full.
My moko goes to the local kura. Parents know that Māori vaccination rates are low.
We have had a communication from the school saying:
"Our transition back to kura will align with the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health and Worksafe New Zealand guidelines."
"Only staff and children on site at kura during Delta Alert Level 2. No parents on site at kura during Delta Alert Level 2."
I am sure the school is following the guidelines. If parents are dangerous why are teachers safe?
Can the Education and Covid Response Minister, Chris Hipkins, explain?
Unvaccinated port workers, most of whom never come in contact with seamen, are losing their jobs this month. Truck drivers crossing alert levels must be tested. Why untested, unvaccinated teachers?
Why did I send my moko to school?
During lockdown Alwyn Poole of the Villa Education Trust sent me this email.
"Once again the 'Matthew Effect' is in action – the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.
"Students in Decile 1-3 high schools in New Zealand have a third less opportunity to learn compared to students in the top three deciles - Decile 8-10. The average full attendance at Decile 1-3 is 41 per cent and in the top three deciles 66 per cent. And worse, the pattern over time is down (-3 per cent) in attendance from 2018-2020 for Deciles 1-3 students, and up 3 per cent for students in Decile 8-10 schools.
"The disadvantage across our system can also be shown through daily attendance. Even for our system as a whole in terms of per day attendance at our schools – we have massive gaps between ethnicities, regions and deciles.
"On the Monday before the latest lockdown very close to one in five decile one students were not in school. For high decile schools only one in 10 was absent. On that Monday 92 per cent of Asian students were at school 88 for European, 83 per cent for Maori and Pasifika students. Auckland and Canterbury topped the regions whereas Te Tai Tokerau was the worst.
"We also have 80 high schools in NZ (I have the lists by school name) that have lost 30 per cent of their students by their 17th birthday and 24 of those have lost 40 per cent of their students.
"All keep in mind that we have 10,500 students not even enrolled in school.
"The input factors in education must be addressed by all political parties and by the ministry responsible. Keep in mind the Ministry of Education's motto is: 'We shape an education system that delivers equitable and excellent outcomes.'
"We are condemning many of the most in need to an adulthood with massively limited opportunities and very low aspirations and the demographics flow-on is in plain sight daily."
The Education Ministry has research on NCEA pass rates. Pupils who do not miss a day of school have a 100 per cent pass rate in NCEA.
Pupils, who do not go to school 50 per cent of the time, not unusual in decile one, have a 100 per cent failure rate.
Every day at school is important. Now I worry whether my moko is safe.
Every student could graduate from school being able to read, write and do maths if they just attended school regularly. A new history curriculum, this Government's education priority, will not improve literacy. Attending school will.
The National/Act Government made funding for Charter Schools dependent on attendance rates. It worked. Attendance at Charter Schools was excellent. As the research predicts Charter Schools' NCEA results were excellent.
Not linking funding to attendance is this Government's policy. The result is predictable, schools where a third of the roll is absent.
The Prime Minister is the Minister for Child Poverty. Jacinda Ardern has asked us to judge her performance by the child poverty statistics. She is presiding over a truancy epidemic that will cause life-time poverty.
We must not let Covid worsen the school attendance crisis. Government must ensure all schools are safe.
We can get back to the top of the international education ranking when we pay schools not for the number of pupils the school enrols but the number of pupils the school teaches.
- Richard Prebble is a former leader of the Act Party and former member of the Labour Party.