Promised truancy offers absent amidst attendance ‘crisis’

The 82 new truancy officers announced to help with chronic absenteeism are nowhere to be found.

In February, newly released attendance data saw a shockingly high truancy rate, prompting Education Minister Jan Tinetti to announce a funding boost to the attendance service.

Now, an investigation conducted by Newshub has found that only one new attendance officer has begun work, despite the aim of starting 82 new attendance officers by Term 2.  

Newshub revealed that because the additional $74 million in funding was labelled “urgent”, the plans were pushed ahead without the usual checks. 

Read the Term 2 edition of School News HERE

Since the funding announcement, only 19 attendance officers have signed their contracts, and only one has begun work in earnest.  

AdobeStock by Robert Peak

Commenting on the finding, Tinetti said she was “absolutely frustrated that we only have one in place at the moment. I am very disappointed in that.”  

National’s education spokesperson Erica Stanford said that the policy was “rushed” and “poorly rolled out”.  

At the time of the funding announcement, School News spoke to Principal Graeme Norman of Te Kōmanawa Rowley, who had helped to successfully double attendance at the small primary. He expressed doubts that the attendance officer scheme would work, stating that in the past, attendance officers assigned to Te Kōmanawa Rowley hadn’t been successful due to difficulty engaging whānau.  

Speaking to Newshub, Principal Cathy Chalmers echoed Norman’s sentiment, saying that the attendance officer role she was offered “wasn’t what I thought or had been led to believe that these positions would be.” 

The outline of an attendance officer role obtained by Newshub found that the job mostly entailed analysing existing data to catch “moderately absent” students – defined as students who attend between 70 to 80 percent of class – rather than chronically absent students.  

“These new attendance officers cannot deal with the difficult cases,” Chalmers said.  

In her area of Manurewa, Chalmers said she was dealing with as many as 103 cases of absenteeism, with 64 rangatahi dropping out recently.  

Naomii Seah

Naomii Seah is a writer and journalist from Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand. She enjoys crochet, painting, and a coffee or two at the beach. Her work can be found at The Spinoff, The Pantograph Punch, Stuff, and of course, School News NZ.
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11 months ago

We have engaged our own attendance officers to address truancy and in just one term have seen a huge increase. Instead of relying on the one person who covers from Waipukarau to South Wairarapa, our people work directly with the school based on our specific needs and the needs of our whānau, building relationships on the ground on a daily basis rather than once every 6 weeks, supporting families to get tamariki back in school. This is where Ministry funding should have gone….. to schools to employ suitable people within the local community to work directly and specifically on the needs within the school. Trusting schools to make decisions based on the knowledge, needs and relationships in their own schools rather than an adding another unnecessary and expensive beauracratic level. Such a waste of money that could have been used so much more effectively.

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