“Almost every aspect of someone's adult life will be defined by the education they receive as a child. If we want better social outcomes, we can’t keep ignoring the truancy crisis,” says ACT’s Education spokesperson Chris Baillie.

“Almost every aspect of someone's adult life will be defined by the education they receive as a child. If we want better social outcomes, we can’t keep ignoring the truancy crisis,” says ACT’s Education spokesperson Chris Baillie.

“RNZ reports that the latest truancy figures show that even after the spike of the pandemic, truancy has continued to get worse. There were 40 per cent more cases of truancy last year than there was in 2021.

“What’s deeply concerning is that most of these cases involved children who had been absent so long their enrolment has lapsed.

“As a former teacher, I know first-hand how important it is that kids are showing up regularly. With these shocking figures, New Zealand is not a sustainable society. It is not passing enough knowledge from one generation to the next to maintain first world status.

“Proposed industrial action by the PPTA will only cause more disruption to students’ educations and make things worse.

“The Ministry of Education says it has increased the number of organisations contracted to deal with truancy from 45 to 79, but as ACT revealed in November last year, the Ministry barely kept track of what these organisations were doing.

“Despite allocating $16.5 million to attendance services last year, the Ministry of Education didn’t know how many attendance officers there were and had not received any truancy data from 108 schools in term 2 of 2022.

“The Ministry needs to ensure that instead of shovelling more money out the door and then forgetting about it, the Ministry keeps track of the data and acts on it. ACT has previously revealed that only one family has been handed a fine for their children’s truancy in five years under S244 of the Education and Training Act 2020.

ACT has five 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.

“We need real change to our education system so we have better outcomes for New Zealand children and ultimately the entire country.”

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