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More than half of students not attending school regularly, new data shows

Amy Wiggins,
Publish Date
Thu, 9 Nov 2023, 4:12PM

More than half of students not attending school regularly, new data shows

Amy Wiggins,
Publish Date
Thu, 9 Nov 2023, 4:12PM

More than half of students were not regularly attending school in term 2 of this year, data released shows.

The Ministry of Education said 47 per cent of students met the criteria for regular attendance during the term, up 7.2 per cent from the same time last year when attendance rates hit a record low of 39.8 per cent.

But it was markedly lower than term one of this year when the regular attendance rate was 59.5 per cent.

This year’s figures also remained lower than term 2 of 2019, prior to Covid, when the attendance rate was 57.7 per cent.

Regular attendance is defined as attending greater than 90 per cent of class time or missing no more than one day each fortnight.

The Ministry of Education said the incidence of Covid and typical winter illnesses continued to be associated with an increase in medical absences compared to 2019 (pre-Covid) and was the main driver of non-attendance in term 2 this year.

“This suggests that students and their parents continue to follow Ministry of Health advice, ie, for students to stay home if unwell,” the ministry said.

It also attributed the rate during term 2 last year to the pandemic, saying there was a rapid increase in Covid-19 cases in the community, which remained high during the term, and those with the virus were required to isolate for a week.

Attendance began to drop in 2015 but the decline accelerated rapidly when the Covid pandemic broke out.

The Ministry said because regular attendance rates were the lowest during term 2 and term 3 in almost every school year it could be assumed that this was linked to the higher rates of winter illnesses and associated justified absence during these terms.

Chronic absences, where students were present 70 per cent of the time, sat at 13.8 per cent in term 2 last year but dropped to 12.5 per cent in the latest data. That is, however, significantly higher than the 8.3 per cent recorded in term 1 of this year.

Regular attendance was up year-on-year for every ethnicity, today’s data showed, but Māori and Pacific student attendance remained poor at 33.1 per cent and 32.3 per cent respectively.

That compares to almost 60 per cent attendance for Asian students and 50 per cent for European/Pākeha.

Once again, the Otago/Southand region had the highest regular attendance and Tai Tokerau had the lowest.

In February, Education Minister Jan Tinetti announced a $74 million package to increase resources for Attendance Services and fund 82 new attendance officers to work with at-risk students, their parents and schools.

Last year the Ministry of Education launched an attendance and engagement strategy with 13 priorities to increase attendance and engagement.

By 2026, the ministry wants to increase the number of children attending regularly to 75 per cent.

Amy Wiggins is an Auckland-based reporter who covers education. She joined the Herald in 2017 and has worked as a journalist for 12 years.

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