Attendance targets set to get Kiwi kids back in class

  • A new school Attendance and Engagement Strategy sets expectations and targets to turn around years of dropping attendance rates.
  • These are:
    • Increase the number of students attending school regularly from 60% in 2021 to 70% in 2024, (and 75% in 2026)
    • Decrease the students who are moderately absent from 8.5% in 2021 to 6% in 2024 (and 4% in 2026)
    • Decrease the number of students who are chronically absent from 7.7% in 2021 to 5% in 2024 (and 3% in 2026)
    • Work is also underway to develop new targets for responding to unexplained absences, which will focus on school notification to whānau on the day of absence and further school action when unjustified absence continues.

The Government is taking action to turn around years of declining school attendance, with a target of at least 70 percent of children regularly attending class in 2024, Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti announced today.

”It’s vital New Zealand children and young people attend school and get the education they need to set themselves up for life. But too many aren’t and this plan aims to change that,” Jan Tinetti said.

“It provides the framework for a nationwide campaign to lift attendance and engagement, so that kids and young people are present, participating and progressing.

“School attendance is a long term challenge and many will be surprised to know it has been gradually declining across-the-board since 2015.

“The trend has been further accelerated by COVID-19 and now sits at around 60 per cent of students who turn up 90 per cent of the time – or the equivalent of nine out of 10 days. We need to make sure that as we get through the pandemic, kids are encouraged to return to school and their communities are supporting them to do that.

“There are a multitude of reasons why kids don’t show up to learn and no silver bullet to fix it.

“Regular attendance is a community-wide issue that needs community wide attention. This strategy supports evidence-based local solutions that are developed by those who know their school communities best and can respond to their needs.

“Examples of best practice include an Auckland school that turned attendance around from 35 percent to 91 percent, with a ‘Kids Back to School’ campaign. School work and food packs were delivered for those in isolation, and a liaison person checked in regularly with follow up from teachers. This strong partnership with the community fostered trust which encouraged whānau to send their tamariki back to school.

“Meanwhile a Pacific Education Programme at a secondary school was very successful in getting senior boys back into their learning, with a support person being the link between families and school to break down barriers and make sure young people felt like their culture was valued when engaging with the curriculum. More emphasis on localised learning, and te ao Maori, is also part of a partnership between a cluster of 25 schools and kura with their local runanga - which is helping with Aotearoa Histories content and the design of a new Attendance Service.

“Our regional teams in the education ministry’s frontline Te Mahau will expand these efforts to support schools and kura to work more with their communities – including Māori, Pacific and disabled learners – and facilitate collective actions across our regional social services and school communities to design ways to help remove barriers.

“This mahi will build on the $88 million attendance package we announced as part of Budget 2022, that includes $40 million for a Regional Response fund and further improvements to the Attendance Service and Alternative Education.

“We all share responsibility and have a role to play to reverse this trend and lift attendance back up. Parents and whānau are responsible for getting their children to attend and participate, while schools and kura have to be places where students feel they are safe and belong. There is a role for everyone in this plan,” Jan Tinetti said.

Attendance definitions

  • Regularly (more than 90% of the time, or 9 days a fortnight)
  • Moderately absent (70% - 80%, or absent 2/3 days a fortnight)
  • Chronically absent (less than 70% of the time, or missing three or more days a fortnight)
  • The proposed fourth target, around notifying parents and caregivers, is subject to further work with the sector.