Attendance strategy more spin than action

Labour’s strategy for dealing with truancy is more spin, without clear actions to turn around New Zealand’s truancy epidemic, National’s Education spokesperson Erica Stanford says.

“Under Labour the truancy epidemic continues to worsen with the number of chronically truant kids increasing from 38,000 in 2017 to a staggering 67,000 at the end of 2021. A shocking 40 per cent of kids do not currently attend school regularly.

“But after five years, the Labour Government’s strategy document could have been written by a public relations firm. It contains 13 vague steps, without any clear actions or direction on how to re-engage students.

“During the select committee process National argued that the Government’s target to improve regular attendance to 70 per cent by 2024 was not ambitious enough.

“Labour seems to believe its targets are ambitious, but even by 2026 its target would mean one in four children do not attend school regularly. National’s firm view is that we should aspire for every child to attend school regularly in the long term.

“Rather than setting another strategy, National wants to see actual resourcing, actions and policies that drive a relentless focus on attendance throughout the education system.

“We know that attendance is the most important indicator of student achievement and education is the strongest tool we have to ensure every kid gets an equal chance in life to be successful.

“The Ministry of Education must make improving attendance its number one priority, yet none of its 4000 staff are employed to improve attendance rates.

“The Government’s response to falling attendance has been woeful and the Ministry of Education is distracted by banning fizzy drinks, while New Zealand is failing a generation of kids who will not get the chance to get a good education that sets them up to be successful.”