Truancy is a growing problem in New Zealand and Mid Canterbury is not exempt, local principals say.
Attendance issues in many local schools are certainly on the rise, according to Mid Canterbury Principals’ Association spokesman and Ashburton Intermediate principal, Brent Gray.
“Even though we have great support from the Mid Canterbury Attendance Service, there are some challenging cases that are ongoing after initially being Covid lockdown related,” Gray said.
“Some of the absenteeism can also be attributed to a change in attitude towards time spent as a family in doing things together, and a long weekend might turn into an extra day away from school if a family is going out of town.
“This is easy to see and generally isn’t ongoing, so the focus is on those students who show regular patterns of absences.”
According to the Ministry of Education, only 39.9 per cent of New Zealand students regularly attended school in Term 2, with a rise in Covid 19 cases a key contributor.
Covid cases were rampant across schools in Mid Canterbury at the end of term 1 and across term 2, impacting the attendance figures.
Those absences are explained, and acceptable.
It is the repeat unjustified absences of some students that is the issue and it is a number that is increasing.
The Education Review Office (ERO) recently published a report highlighting the rising truancy issue in New Zealand, stating only three out of five learners regularly attend school.
New Zealand Principals’ Federation president, Cherie Taylor-Patel, said students who fail to make 90 per cent attendance are considered non-regular attenders.
“It doesn’t take many half-days off school to drop to below 90 per cent, and Covid alone would account for the majority of non-regular attendance over the last three years,” Taylor-Patel said.
Ashburton College principal, Ross Preece, said the school was sitting at around an 82 per cent attendance rate for the year, a reasonable figure considering the mass absences from Covid 19 cases earlier in the year.
Truancy is not a widespread issue at college, he said.
“It isn’t an issue as such for the college, but it is an issue for some families,” he said.
At Mount Hutt College there has been a “slight increase” in absenteeism in 2022 compared to the past two years, but on par with 2018 and 2019, principal Jack Saxon said.
He said the increase was likely explained by the fact that most students were coded as present during lockdowns in 2020-2021 as they were engaged in online learning regardless of their health.
But in 2022, with onsite learning remaining in place, any sick students have stayed home impacting the overall statistics.
“Even with the drop, our overall attendance rates remain well above the national and regional averages,” Saxon said.
“With a school roll at 500 we only have three or four students who have issues related to truancy.”
He said since the first lockdown the small number of students at risk of truancy have had an increase in absences, but there hadn’t been in increase in the number of students.
- By Jonathan Leask