Education Minister Anne Tolley says she is hugely frustrated by a decision to scrap the biennial school truancy survey last year, leaving data three years out of date.
The 2006 survey showed up to 30,000 children - 4.1 per cent of the 750,000 primary and high school pupils nationwide - skipped school each week, the Dominion Post reported today.
The biennial week-long survey, conducted by the Ministry of Education, was not held last year as some schools were implementing a new electronic attendance tracking system.
However, only 250 out of 2700 schools use it, ministry officials told the Dominion Post.
"Surprised isn't the word. I was really frustrated because you can't judge whether programmes that you've put into place have been effective unless you're constantly checking, and that survey was a good way of doing that," Mrs Tolley told NZPA.
"What it means is we have to proceed on the information we've got, so we've got to use that 2006 data."
The Government had already introduced legislation doubling the maximum fine for truancy. Under the Education (National Standards) Amendment Bill, the maximum first offence fine for a parent who fails to ensure their child goes to school is being raised from $150 to $300, and for second or subsequent offences from $400 to $3000. Parents would also be fined up to $3000 for failing to enrol their child in school.
"They (fines) were very trivial and it was also a signal to schools and to the community that we're taking it seriously. It is a serious issue," Mrs Tolley said.
"It has long-term effects on people's lives."
Ministry officials would talk to district truancy services to get an idea of what worked and what did not, and the electronic monitoring system would continue to be introduced, she said.
As well, programmes such as putting trades into schools would continue.
"There is an obligation on us in schools to try to make school more relevant to a whole range of kids and I think we're going down that track with our trades in schools," Mrs Tolley said.
"There's a lot of kids that are interested in making things and doing things, rather than sitting in a classroom."
Another programme being implemented was Te Kotahitanga, a professional development programme focused on teaching teachers to build relationships, particularly with Maori students.
The Government would expand that programme from the 33 schools it currently covered.
"That is a part of what holds these kids at school: if they've got good relationships with their teachers we know that has a huge effect on their learning," she said.
"So it's making school relevant and building those relationships in the school.
"Every child that's not in school is one child too many."