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Heather du Plessis-Allan: Truancy announcement is just vote buying

Author
Heather du Plessis-Allan,
Publish Date
Tue, 21 Feb 2023, 6:14pm

Heather du Plessis-Allan: Truancy announcement is just vote buying

Author
Heather du Plessis-Allan,
Publish Date
Tue, 21 Feb 2023, 6:14pm

Look, I really want to believe that 82 new truancy officers are going to turn around our falling attendance rates at schools. 

But we live in the real world, so here are some real world facts:

We have 2500 schools and 815,000 students in this country.

That means each of those officers is going to have to cover 31 schools each. Each of those officers is responsible for 10,000 students each.

If the figures are to be believed and 54 percent were truant in term three last year, then each of those officers are supposed to chase up 5400 students regularly.

Obviously, there are already some existing truancy officers trying to do the job, but the trouble is; we don’t how many, because the Government doesn’t know how many. And it’s probably not a lot.

The reason that this is one of Chris Hipkins’ first announcements in the first month of his Prime Ministership is because he knows it’s a vote winner.

He knows we’re worried about our kids and he knows cracking down on truancy will be popular. 

But it’s only popular if it’s believable, if voters actually believe it’s going to make a difference. And on those numbers, it's hard to believe that this is possible.

It's also hard to believe that this is anything other than cynical vote winning tactic from this Government, because they’ve left it this late to deal with the truancy.

I was reading stories as long ago as 2020 with headlines like “The attendance freefall in New Zealand's schools”.

Chris Hipkins himself, as former Education Minister, would've seen the truancy numbers ticking up. And did nothing about it, until today.

Truancy is a massive issue in New Zealand. Our kids’ education should be top priority, not an easy headline bought with 82 truancy officers. 

So I'm sorry to say this feels like one straight out of the Jacinda playbook.

Good headline, scratch beneath the surface just one layer- disappointing. 

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