“Tinetti is absent from the details in her portfolio. The real tragedy here is a Minister who isn’t focussed on the issue that is at the core of her portfolio – persistent truancy.

“The excuse Tinetti provided to Parliament’s Privileges Committee – that she was busy and couldn’t be bothered checking the facts before responding to Parliament – is pathetic. Parliamentary accountability is essential to a functioning democracy, Labour MPs seem to think the details are trivial, but they’re extremely important for New Zealanders and they owe it to every taxpayer in New Zealand to do their taxpayer-funded salary justice and do their job.  

“She also said she is “very disappointed” in her staff. Blaming staff for not telling them things appears to be Labour Ministers’ go-to excuse every time they get caught out. There’s a culture of wilful ignorance in Labour that is disastrous for public accountability.

“The data Tinetti tried to hide is worse than useless because only 81.9 per cent of schools actually reported in 2022. She cannot blame COVID-19. Reporting was significantly higher in 2020.

“We have a truancy crisis in this country and no one is being held accountable – not the parents, not the schools. The Government and the Ministry of Education are weak and incompetent.

“We need accountability. That means mandatory daily attendance reporting and fines for parents who refuse to send their kids to school, as set out in ACT’s truancy plan released in November.”

ACT’s five ideas to get kids back in the classroom:

  • Daily national attendance reporting: ACT will require every school in New Zealand to fill out an electronic attendance register accessible by the Ministry of Education. Schools will be required to record which students have not attended school on a particular day and whether that absence was justified or unjustified. The Ministry will publish daily attendance in real time, building a national focus on the issue.
  • Empowering schools to deal with truancy: The Government spends $38.5 million on truancy services and ACT says it should be given to schools to use for hiring their own truancy officers. The funding would be weighted to the Equity Index, so schools with more vulnerable student populations would receive more funding. For example, a poor school with 600 students could have an allowance of about $113 per student for $67,800 hiring an attendance officer. A group of smaller schools could band together to hire their own officer.
  • Traffic light system: Collection of data will be connected to a traffic light system. This will set out clear expectations for the responsibilities of everyone relating to unjustified absences.
    • Green light, high attendance (up to 10% absence). Require schools to attempt to make contact with a family on the day of an unjustified absence.
    • Orange light, irregular attendance (10-30% absence) The school will be required to hold a meeting with the student and family and develop a plan to reintegrate the student back into the classroom on a regular basis.
    • Red light, chronic absenteeism. (more than 30% truant). Children will be referred to the Ministry of Education to deal with, who will make a decision on possible actions including fines and referral to Police.
  • An infringement notice regime for parents: Currently parents cannot be fined for student non-attendance without a court conviction, but they can be fined on the spot for speeding to school. ACT would change the Education and Training Act to allow the Ministry of Education to introduce an infringement notice regime for truancy. Ensuring Police use section 49 of the Education and Training Act to work with schools on truants and to take children they see out of school during school hours to either the school or home.
  • Accountability for schools through mandatory reporting: Schools would be required to report their attendance daily to a Ministry of Education database. Most businesses need to prove they have delivered before they are paid, but schools do not have to report whether their students actually attended school. Under ACT, schools that fail to report would risk losing their funding.

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