Thursday, May 23, 2024

School attendance prioritised in new health advice

Refreshed health guidance released today will help parents and schools make informed decisions about whether their child needs to be in school, says Associate Education Minister, David Seymour.

In recent years, consistently across all school terms, short-term illness or medical reasons have been the largest contributors to justified absences, the Minister said.

The percentage of time absent due to these continues to be higher than pre-COVID-19 figures – 8.6% in Term 2 of 2022, and 6.9% in Term 2 of 2023, compared with between 4% and 5.3% in Term 2 for years between 2015 and 2019.

“School attendance is a shared responsibility, and for too long attendance has not been good enough. COVID-19 had a big impact on attendance rates, attendance culture, and what is being considered acceptable. It’s time to take a more rational approach and get kids back to school,” says Mr Seymour.

“Of course, health’s important, of course you’ve got to be responsible – but you don’t keep people home under all circumstances. Sometimes you’ve got to make a call between health and education, and we’re bringing back some balance in that regard.

“Parents know their children best and should be supported to make good decisions. For example, a child with mild hay fever might display some symptoms, but that doesn’t mean it’s unsafe for them to attend school.”

The refreshed health guidance is an important step in lifting student attendance, said the Minister.

The guidance provides information on minor symptoms where it is okay for students to attend school and more significant symptoms of concern for parents and schools to look out for. 

There are also links and information to help students cope with and overcome mild anxiety which may be affecting their school attendance.

“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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