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