Truancy plan causes concern for high school teachers

May 15, 2024

Truancy plan causes concern for high school teachers

A North Shore school, one of the many affected by truancy on a daily basis. Photo: Maddy Derbyshire-Smith

Teachers are concerned about David Seymour's new truancy plan, says the leader of the largest education sector union.

Mark Potter, NZEI Te Riu Roa president, says he doesn’t believe David Seymour’s truancy plans will make a difference.

And his concerns are echoed by leaders at Auckland schools of varying deciles.

He also says that it would be "better all-around for sick children to stay home", so as to not expose any illness to teachers or other pupils.

“It isn’t the right way to go about it,” he says.

A dean at a decile 10 North Shore school says truancy is a serious problem for students academically and socially but he questions the new plan.

“The student doesn’t come to school, they’re going to find it very hard to find a friend group, to find a co-curricular and that sense of belonging is so important because it’s connected to their self-esteem.”

But he questions if the plan is targeting the right audiences.

“I think the mentioning of fines, I think that’s counterproductive.

“Trips to Fiji - fines won’t make a difference. If they can afford a trip to Fiji, a $100 fine isn’t going to dissuade them.”

Under the Education and Training Act, parents may face conviction and fines up to $30 per day for each school day their children are absent, with penalties of up to $300 for a first offence and $3000 for repeat offences.

And a head of department at an Auckland decile 3 school agrees.

“We also have students who miss school because of the cost of transport, childcare for siblings, or medical care for their elders.

“The cost of truancy fines will only further disenfranchise these students from the education that we, as a society, believe they have a right to.”

She also says the changes pose potential dangers to this lower decile.

“If the student is working full time to keep their family housed and fed, they may unenroll in school rather than risk the fines.”

Seymour was not available for interview, though released a statement with the ministry’s objectives.

“We’re creating a culture where children know if they want to get anywhere in life, they need to get to school first,” he said in it.

This comes after New Zealand’s secondary attendance faces a harsh decline by both national and international standards.

Rates of full attendance as of September 2023 were 45.9 per cent, a harsh decline from 65.9 per cent in 2015, according to the NZ Government official website.

“The Government has set a target of ensuring 80 per cent of students are present for more than 90 per cent of the term by 2030,” Seymour says.

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