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New figures show nearly 10,000 children aged between 5-13 not enrolled in formal education

Georgia O'Connor-Harding,
Publish Date
Thu, 27 Apr 2023, 5:00am

New figures show nearly 10,000 children aged between 5-13 not enrolled in formal education

Georgia O'Connor-Harding,
Publish Date
Thu, 27 Apr 2023, 5:00am

A record high number of primary school children aren't enrolled in the country's formal education system.

Figures released to Newstalk ZB shows nearly 10,000 5 to 13 year olds aren't enrolled in the official school roll as of 2022, a significant jump from just over 6300 reported in the year before.

Canterbury has reported the biggest percentage increase in the country, of 408 percent in the year to 2022.

Other major increases include Auckland at 88 percent and Waikato at 71 percent.

Nelson and Marlborough are the only regions to have seen a decrease in the number of non-enrolments, dropping by 60 percent.

The Government says it is already taking action to address the nearly 10,000 children not enrolled in formal education.

Acting Minister of Education Kelvin Davis says Labour's Attendance Turnaround Package announced in February will invest almost $74 million dollars into the issue.

He says the 2022 Attendance Service redesign, and attendance and engagement strategy also aims to improve the situation.

The Ministry of Education says multiple factors are at play - including the Omicron outbreak at the start of last year - and transfers of students to different schools.

They also say if a transferring student is not enrolled at their new school within five days, they're considered non-enrolled.

Caregivers failing to enrol or ensure regular attendance may face prosecution.

An agency helping to get kids back in school is concerned by recent attendance figures.

South Auckland based organisation New Zealand Blue Light supports disengaged school children.

Their Chief Operations Officer Brendon Crompton says truancy is a hard cycle to break.

"What's really concerning is because we had such long periods of time away from school is that often, they're well behind their peer group from a learning perspective. And then that makes it hard for them and makes it more likely that they'll re-disengage."

Crompton adds they haven't seen any funding from the Government's 74 million dollar truancy package.

"They talk about trying to reduce the issues, and we've got the skills to do that. We're just very short-staffed from what they fund us. We had 4500 referrals last year, and the ministry funds us 12 staff members."

National's Erica Stanford has slammed the multi-million dollar investment into truancy services as "too little too late".

Stanford says it's a band-aid on a problem that's really a gaping wound.

"The answer to our truancy problem, right from the start, is at the top of the cliff. It's making sure that kids are achieving in school. The Government has taken their eye off the ball with that in the last six years, and now they're trying to patch it up at the bottom of the cliff."

Erica Stanford says there's multiple factors involved, but puts a lot of the numbers down to our kids failing in school - with half not meeting curriculum standards for reading, writing and math.

"There is a societal problem in that they don't value education as much as they used to. I'm sure a big part of it is that our kids are not achieving in school and becoming disengaged."  

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