Mixed messages on Covid-19 is being blamed for student absenteeism in schools across Northland since the lockdown, with some experiencing a roll drop of up to 30 per cent.
The Te Tai Tokerau Principals' Association is urging parents and students to talk to their schools in terms of messages around Covid rather than relying on politicians and others on social media.
Whangārei Intermediate School has struck six students off its roll since the end of May and a spokeswoman said they have not been enrolled in other schools to date.
By law, students who are absent from school for 20 consecutive days without a valid reason are struck off the roll.
"A lot of them are absent on Fridays and Mondays but there are also some who won't return until we are down to level zero which is not going to happen.
"Quite a few are getting mixed messages, not from politicians, but on the social media and explain to them that what they read on social media is not correct and that school is a safe place to come to."
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The spokeswoman said the school didn't have an issue with children who wanted to wear a face mask or practice hand hygiene.
She said school staff spent a lot of time contacting absent students and visited their homes before removing them from the roll and notifying the Ministry of Education.
"Six is a big number and the loss of learning is huge. Some students can miss out on an year of learning and that can never be caught up with.
"There's also the social interaction with their peers and the forming, developing, and maintaining of friendship that gets lost when they don't come to school," she said.
Association president Pat Newman said the community in Northland was getting so many different messages around Covid from politicians and others that parents were worried about their children's safety.
"There's been a big drop in attendance, a lot of schools are running at 70 per cent because there's a hell of a lot of stress out there. I hope the bloody idiots who are spreading lies and innuendo realise the harm they are doing.
"One minute, people are told to wear a mask and the other minute, they are told not to and they become worried for their kids. The teachers make sure children are safe and they reassure parents so they don't become worried."
Newman said not a huge number of parents have resorted to home-schooling their children as there was a process to follow, including showing the programmes offered at home was on par with those taught in schools.
Kaeo Primary School principal Paul Barker said some students were reticent about returning to school after the first lockdown but the situation improved after follow-ups.
"We gave them a couple of weeks before we started chasing them which helped. I got in my car a few times and knocked on doors and said time to go back to school.
"A few used Covid as an excuse but no one is staying away at the moment since we provided good information and assured the community that it's safe to send their children to school," Barker said.
Dargaville High School principal Michael Houghton said proactive communication with parents and students was an effective tool towards the fight against false information.
Attendance at his school has been pretty static, although there was a bit of a lag in students returning to school after the lockdown.
Ministry of Education deputy secretary sector engagement and support, Katrina Casey, said Covid has further impacted on school attendance which had been dropping over the years.
The ministry, she said, initiated the attendance and engagement plan in May this year to support the wellbeing and mental health of all children and young people and help them return to education following the Covid containment period.
"As part of this plan, we have supported schools to free up teachers, social workers, teacher aides, and other school staff to encourage attendance back to school and re-engagement in learning."
The plan includes home visits and phone calls - in the family language where appropriate - and in some regions, she said the ministry was supporting principals to broker the most culturally appropriate connect for the family to assist in encouraging return to school.
Casey said Northland has been given $2.9 million from this year's Budget to support student attendance and engagement post-lockdown.
"We know that many children were looking forward to going back to school and it's the best place for them. It is crucial for their learning and their wellbeing that they do return to school. It is safe for them to do so.
"While we understand that some parents may be anxious about having their children physically at school, principals have taken extra care to ensure that all advice from public health officials is implemented," Casey said.