Thursday, May 23, 2024

School attendance action plan on drawing board

Associate Education Minister, David Seymour says the Government is taking action to address New Zealand’s school truancy crisis and raise attendance by delivering an attendance action plan.

The Minister said New Zealand attendance rates were low by national and international standards.

“If the truancy crisis isn’t addressed there will be an 80-year long shadow of people who missed out on education when they were young, are less able to work, less able to participate in society, more likely to be on benefits. That’s how serious this is,” says Mr Seymour.

Regular attendance, defined as being in school over 90% of the time, has declined from 69.5% in Term 2 2015 to 39.9% in Term 2 2022. England’s attendance rates in 2022 were 75.1%, the USA was 70.3%, Australia was 49.9%. Most recently (September 2023), New Zealand rates were only 45.9%.

He said the Government was making reporting and enforcement action to reduce non-attendance and truancy a high priority.

“This is part of the government’s target of ensuring 80% of students are present for more than 90% of the term by 2030.”

“A key focus is getting a better understanding of the drivers of non-attendance through data. The more we define the problems the more effectively interventions can be targeted.”

Mr Seymour said the Government was already implementing changes as part of the attendance action plan, including:  

  • Starting publishing of attendance data weekly from the second week of Term 2, 2024;
  • Rolling out a communications campaign to improve awareness of the importance of students attending school from Term 2 2024;
  • Updating public health guidance to help schools and parents to decide if a student is well enough to attend school;
  • Clarifying expectations around attendance to school boards.

The Minister confirmed he will also be bringing the following proposals to Cabinet at a later date:

  • Mandating daily reporting of attendance data by term 1 2025;
  • Developing a Traffic Light System to set out the requirements and expectations for parents, schools, and the Ministry at different stages of a student’s attendance, with clear obligations for when a student is not attending;
  • Making attendance a strategic priority for school boards so they have clear expectations to focus on minimising disruption to students;
  • Using improved data and analysis to distinguish the drivers of non-attendance and targeting interventions, particularly for the chronic non-attenders or students that are now not enrolled.

These initiatives will require data improvements, analysis and the development of advice to inform potential regulatory changes, said Mr Seymour.

“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.”

“An education crisis today will turn into a crime crisis, a vulnerable children crisis, an economic crisis and an inequality crisis tomorrow. We’re addressing this by creating a culture where children know if they want to get anywhere in life, they need to get to school first,” he said.

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