Attendance among education targets on government’s new priority list

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has announced new targets for the government to achieve by 30 June, including key education policy.

Last Tuesday, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon released the ‘Coalition Government’s Action Plan for New Zealand,’ a 36-point document which outlines targets for the government over the next quarter, including actioning campaign promises in the education sector.  

One of the more concrete points on the agenda is number 31: “Launch an Attendance Action Plan and introduce the first phase of initiatives to lift school attendance.”  

Read the latest print edition of School News HERE 

Associate Education Minister David Seymour is in charge of delivering the Attendance Action Plan (AAP). Speaking to RNZ’s Checkpoint on Tuesday night, Seymour said that the AAP would not be a crackdown, though he said that fines would play a “tiny part” of the package.  

Fines and punitive measures would be used to combat “persistent behaviour”, where parents or caregivers are ignoring attendance messaging and warnings. Seymour said he expected this would be a “small minority” of cases, and noted that there would be “some sensitivity” over who would be liable for fines. Students who were missing school due to poverty would not be subject, he noted.  

“Overwhelmingly what we’re looking for is better information on the importance of school,” said Seymour, noting one initiative where local figures recorded messages for school-aged children on the importance of attendance.  

Associate Education Minister David Seymour says the focus is on messaging around the importance of attendance. Photo: AdobeStock by Robert Peak.

He said the government would be looking at which schools have “winning models” that can be shared with other schools to improve attendance.  

Seymour said the plan would also include improving the Attendance Service and a focus on data collection: “Who’s not attending and why and how can we fix it.” 

Financial support for children, such as affordable transport packages or school uniform aid, would not be in the Attendance Action Plan, said Seymour.  

Commenting on the AAP, Luxon said “We want to be able to get 80 percent of our kids at school for 90 percent of the term, and we want to see 80 percent of our Year 8 kids ready to go for high school.” 

Education-related points highlighted in the 36-point action plan are listed under the sub-heading of “Deliver better public services”. They are: 

  1. Take decisions on the rollout of structured literacy for year 1-3 students, including a phonics check.
  2. Take action to strengthen teacher training, including refocusing Professional Learning and Development for teachers on numeracy, literacy and assessment.
  3. Take action to develop standardised assessment and regular reporting to parents.
  4. Introduce legislation to reintroduce charter schools.
  5. Launch an Attendance Action Plan and introduce the first phase of initiatives to lift school attendance.

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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