A Mother is to face truancy charges after allegedly letting her two children miss nearly a year’s schooling.
The news comes as the Education Ministry has admitted more than 500 children have not been enrolled at school for more than six months – 170 of them for more than a year.
Truancy officer Peter Rodger said the case of the Upper Hutt mother took too long to get to court because the Education Act lacks teeth.
He is urging the Government to take more truancy prosecutions and to make penalties tougher.
His comments come just three days after The Dominion Post revealed that the ministry had discovered a “lost tribe” of 5000 children who had slipped through the cracks and were not even enrolled at school.
The ministry now says the number has grown to 6334, after absent primary school children were added.
It confirmed yesterday that 170 children had not been enrolled for more than 12 months, and 554 for more than six months.
Truancy Services are scrambling to track the children and get them re-enrolled, and Education Minister Chris Carter is considering raising fines for parents who ignore their legal responsibilities.
Mr Rodger said the Upper Hutt prosecution – the second there in 25 years – involved a Trentham School boy aged about 10 and an Upper Hutt College girl aged about 14.
Both had allegedly missed nearly the whole school year.
Truancy Services alerted youth aid in July, but it took more than four months to bring the case to court, Mr Rodger said. The mother’s defended hearing is in February.
Truancy problems were not given enough priority by the Government, he said.
He was surprised by the number of children not enrolled at school. “It’s too high. I thought it would be in the hundreds.”
A ministry spokesman said some of the non-enrolled children could not be found and may have re-enrolled under different names or left New Zealand.
Mr Carter said he was not surprised by the non-enrolment figures, and was determined to ensure that every child who should be at school was at school.