“New Zealand’s truancy crisis continues to get worse, with another report showing that Kiwi kids are falling behind the rest of the world in school attendance,” says ACT’s Education spokesperson Chris Baillie.

“The Education Review Office’s report Missing Out: Why Aren’t Our Children Going to School? shows that New Zealand’s education standards have been steadily dropping as students and parents no longer see school as important.

“The report states that a third of students don’t see school attendance as important anymore and four out of ten parents weren’t particularly concerned either.

“ACT recently revealed that the Ministry of Education wasn’t keeping track of fines issued to parents, while attendance officers and schools weren’t sharing data with police. It has also previously been revealed that Minister Tinetti doesn’t even know how many truancy officers there are across New Zealand.

“With no consequences or concern across the board, is it any wonder students and parents are becoming more and more comfortable with skipping school? Schools and politicians condone truancy for climate strikes, but blame parents for taking their kids to a funeral. This Government’s priorities are all about ideology, not students’ futures.

“You can’t downplay this problem, plummeting levels of numeracy and literacy and increasing rates of youth crime are proof of the severity. Education is what sets our kids up for a lifetime of achievement, better health outcomes and higher incomes.

“Even Labour’s unaspiring goal of 70 per cent attendance is below international standards and appears to just be wanting to slow the decline rather than turn it around, and they’re failing miserably at even that.

“Children have a wide range of needs and not all of them fit into the same box. That was why ACT’s Partnership Schools were so successful and changed the lives of many children who were struggling to fit into our traditional schooling system.

“They had an incentive to keep kids in the classroom, being specifically contracted to not allow truancy rates above 2.8 per cent. If a Partnership School performed as badly as the average state school on attendance, it would be at risk of closure.

“Having outstanding teachers is often the factor that makes a real difference in children’s lives as well. That’s why ACT would introduce the Teaching Excellence Reward Fund (TERF) to ensure teachers who are making a difference are getting rewarded, and not fleeing to a bigger salary in Australia.

“There is a serious question of whether New Zealand is still a first world country as education standards plummet and our health system declines. The question Kiwis must be asking themselves is do we want to carry on in comfortable decline until we slip away from first world status, or do we want real change?”

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