“Education Minister Jan Tinetti has showed that she has been absent from her portfolio and receives a fail for her knowledge of the truancy crisis in New Zealand,” says ACT’s Education spokesperson Chris Baillie.

“Tinetti provided little hope to parents hoping the Government will be able to get on top of the truancy crisis today while appearing on the AM Show. She revealed that she wasn’t across the details, and those that she did know she has been sitting on for months with no action.

“It was revealed Tinetti has known only 46 percent of students went to school regularly in term three last year since December 2022, but hasn’t acted on or revealed the info until today.

“When asked why it has taken three months for her to do anything she said it’s “too important to get this wrong”. Why was it not important enough for her to address the issue before the start of term 1 this year? Just because the kids get the summer off doesn’t mean the Minister needs to as well.

“She also has no idea how many truancy officers exist currently. Considering she is now proclaiming truancy officers as the solution to the problem, it beggars belief that she doesn’t know how many there are already. Apparently adding 82 new officers to “a lot” is her solution.

“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.

“Instead of shovelling money out the door and then forgetting about it, ACT’s truancy policy has real solutions to get kids back in the classroom:

• Daily national attendance reporting:The Government treated COVID like a crisis and maintained a national focus on the pandemic with daily case, hospitalisation, and death numbers for over two years. Truancy is also a crisis with major long term consequences, but it took five months for the Government to report Term 2 attendance this year, and even then 108 schools refused to report. 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: Schools should be empowered to deal with poor attendance through direct, cashed-up funding. 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. Ensure 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.

“The next generation can’t afford another absent Education Minister. We need real change to our education system so we have better outcomes for New Zealand children and ultimately the entire country.”

Press Contact

[email protected]