“The Minister of Education is now blaming overseas holidays for the out of control truancy rates seen across our education sector, you can’t make this stuff up” says ACT’s Education spokesperson Chris Baillie.

“When asked on Newshub Nation about the disgraceful rate of only 54 per cent of secondary school students regularly attending school, Minister Hipkins blamed parents taking their kids on an overseas holiday.

If a family takes their child on an overseas holiday for term two for one week and then they have a long weekend… then they will be counted in those statistics, those aren’t the kids we should be worried about.”

“This is the sort of leadership from the Minister that has gotten us to a point where principals are watching students skateboard past the front gates.

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

“Our education system has been declining for years now, Labour’s unaspiring goal of 70 per cent attendance appears to just be wanting to slow the decline rather than turn it around – and they’re failing miserably at even that. We need real change to our education system so we have better outcomes for New Zealand children and ultimately the entire country.

“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.

“Our education system is a slow moving disaster that needs real change, not excuses and unambitious targets.

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Chris Baillie