Minister orders action on truants

Minister orders action on truants

By LANE NICHOLS – The Dominion Post | Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Education Minister Anne Tolley says she is hugely frustrated by a decision to scrap the biennial school truancy survey last year, leaving data three years out of date.

The Government is demanding urgent action on truancy amid revelations that officials have little or no idea how many thousands of children cut class each day.

Education Minister Anne Tolley is instructing staff in her ministry to survey schools immediately to gauge national truancy rates and brief her on the fight against non-attendance.

Officials admit the latest national truancy figures up to 30,000 children each week are nearly three years old.

They could only guess how many children were absent on any given day, and had not delivered on reduced truancy targets, one said.

A biennial week-long survey of schools to collect crucial truancy figures, to have been held last year, was ditched while a new electronic attendance tracking system was implemented in some schools.

The last survey, in 2006, showed up to 30,000 children 4.1 per cent of the 750,000 primary and high school pupils were truant each week. It brought claims that the government was fighting a losing battle against a “truancy tidal wave”.

A further “lost tribe” of 2500 long-term truants are not even enrolled. They are thought to represent a hardcore of young offenders before the youth justice system.

The electronic tracking system will provide more accurate data, but problems have delayed its implementation. Only about 250 of the 2700 schools are believed to use it. Just a handful of schools took part in a trial of the new system late last year and the data was of little use, officials say.

“If that information had come out, we would have known what the attendance and non-attendance picture was,” a ministry official said. “So we share the disappointment. We feel it.”

The ditched survey was “the only information we have nationally on attendance. We have nothing else”.

Mrs Tolley said she was surprised and disappointed that Labour had not demanded last year’s truancy survey, which would have provided up-to-date non-attendance figures.

“This means the last solid data we have is from 2006. That is unacceptable and I will be directing officials to undertake a survey as soon as possible so we can understand the true size of the truancy problem and work with schools and communities to ensure that more children are regularly engaged in school.”

Getting more children back in class was a priority, especially when an estimated 150,000 pupils were failing.

Results from this year’s survey would not be available till 2010.

Labour education spokesman Chris Carter said “snapshot” surveys did not provide accurate truancy information as figures were easily skewed by one-off events.

He had not been responsible as minister for ditching the survey. “At no point was I asked about it. I assume it was advice from officials.”

The electronic system would eventually provide a much clearer picture. “We know there is a truancy problem. No one’s disputing that. But telling us how many kids are away isn’t solving the problem.”

Ministry senior manager Tina Cornelius said the electronic tracking system, which is not compulsory, was likely to replace the biennial survey, depending on schools’ uptake.

Parents convicted over son’s truancy

Parents convicted over son’s truancy

By NICOLA BRENNAN – Waikato Times | Saturday, 29 November 2008

The parents of a Morrinsville College student have been prosecuted and convicted over their son’s truancy.

Kathleen Kereopa and Chris Hemara, charged under the Education Act, pleaded guilty when they appeared in the Morrinsville District Court last week for the repeat non-attendance of their 15-year-old son.

They were both convicted and discharged.

Matamata couple Belinda Witaka and Jason Aoake faced a similar charge on the same day and were convicted and discharged, but ordered to pay $130 in court costs.

Morrinsville College deputy principal Marian Fogarty welcomed the convictions, and the message they sent.

“The available penalties are fines and so it is probably more important that the parents are given a clear message that if their children truant they can be prosecuted. I am sure if the same parents were convicted again there would be a substantial financial penalty.”

A second offence carries a fine of $400.

Ms Fogarty said the college took the issue of truancy “very seriously” and monitored their students’ attendance closely.

“We have prosecuted a family once before, a number of years ago and we will certainly contemplate doing it again.

“But it is a last resort and obviously we would much rather not have to take this step.”

The parents in this case were reported to the police by the town’s ROCKON (Reduce Our Community Kids Offending Now) committee.

The attendance rate for the first three terms of this year was 63 per cent – the goal for secondary students is 92 per cent. A 60 per cent attendance rate is 76 days off a year.

ROCKON meets once a month and is made up of representatives of schools, Child Youth and Family (CYF), the police, Education Ministry and health providers. If an absentee problem arises, the first step is for the police to contact the parents. If things do not improve CYF is called in to set up a family group conference.

If all those interventions failed the next step was to prosecute the parents.

Ms Fogarty said truancy was an issue at every school – Morrinsville College was “no better or worse than others”. Year 10 students most often skipped school, although there were a small number of persistent truants at each level.

The college belonged to the Morrinsville District Truancy Service which employed two attendance officers to help track students and get them back to school. But she said funding had not increased in 11 years, and the service was struggling.

“It should be a government priority to fund all truancy services adequately and ensure that everything possible is done to keep students at school and off the streets. “

Parents to get truancy reminders


Parents to get truancy reminders

By MARCUS STICKLEY – Nelson | Monday, 25 August 2008

Parents could soon start being prosecuted for taking their children out of school for a holiday, a Nelson principal says.

Primary schools have been reinforcing attendance rules with parents after receiving reminders from the Education Ministry to do so.

Under the Education Act, every pupil enrolled at a registered school must attend the school whenever it is open. Ministry guidelines say it is up to principals to decide whether an absence is justified.

Parents can be prosecuted for not sending their children to school, and fines of $15 a day – up to $150 for a first offence – can be imposed if they are convicted.

Hampden St School principal Don McLean said that for a school to prosecute a parent for taking their child away on holiday would be a “bold thing to do, but maybe it’s not too far away”.

In his school newsletter in May, he told parents that the ministry was taking a “tougher line on attendance and have clearly defined what a justifiable absence is and what truancy is”.

“Some of you may be surprised to hear that if you take your child on an overseas trip in school time, this is considered an unjustified absence and therefore your children are recorded as truant.”

Similarly, a week-long ski trip during school time would also be unjustified, he said in the newsletter.

Mr McLean told the Nelson Mail the school kept a record of pupils who missed school due to family holidays, and he planned to “take parents aside” to discuss the issue if they did it regularly.

“We have to get tough on them.”

However, he said the rules were “one size fits all”, which he did not agree with.

If a pupil was travelling to a destination such as Europe, the cultural education they would get could be more valuable than what they would learn in the classroom in that time, he said.

Mr McLean said four children were currently away overseas, mostly for family reasons.

“There seems to be a lot at the moment.”

Hampden St School parent Andrew Meffan has taken his two children on week-long skiing holidays to Wanaka during the school term in previous years.

He said he planned to do the same next week, staying with members of his extended family in a house that was available to them only at certain times during the year.

“But we don’t want to be on the wrong side of the rules and have a truancy officer knock on our door.”

Mr Meffan said truancy rules needed to be targeted appropriately.

“There needs to be more of an evaluation of cases based on the student and family, and commitment to learning.”

St Paul’s Catholic Primary School principal John Dorman said he had received a letter from the ministry before the start of the school year, saying schools should not condone parents taking their children out of school for holidays.

Craig wrote this letter to the editor:

25 August 2008

Letter to Editor

Nelson Mail


The idea of schools threatening parents with truancy notices for taking their children on holiday demonstrates one of the more obvious characteristics of state schooling institutions: that they are simply prisons or child warehouses, designed to baby-sit kids and keep them off the streets.

A holiday with the family, the MoE apparently informs the schools, is not a “justified” absence from school. So the MoE equates a geographical/cultural/social field trip with a child’s parents and siblings to hanging around the mall or sitting at home watching videos all day. The MoE demonstrates again its disconnection from the real world. Any formal notification by the parents that they are taking the child out of the schooling institution should be justification enough: the parents’ authority should trump that of the MoE any day.


Policeman takes girl to school each day

Policeman takes girl to school each day

By JOHN HARTEVELT – The Press | Monday, 04 August 2008

A Christchurch mother has been prosecuted over her daughter’s truancy in the first Canterbury case before the courts under a new scheme designed to cut wagging.

The mother of the 14-year-old Linwood College student was given a six-month suspended sentence on Thursday in the Christchurch District Court.

If the student is caught wagging again within the next six months, the woman will go back to court and be sentenced again.

Police are so keen to prevent the student going astray again that an officer is taking her to school each morning.

The police district co-ordinator of youth services, Senior Sergeant John Robinson, who is doing the daily pick-up, said the girl had been getting her schooling back on track.

She had told him her relationship with her mother had improved, and she was enjoying being back in school.

“Like any programme, there are plenty that we’ve got hassles with, but currently she’s doing really, really well. I’m exceptionally proud of her,” Robinson said.

The girl’s mother went to work early, and Robinson said he was happy to do the school run to get the girl back in the habit of going to school.

“If it’s what it takes to get her back engaged in school, then that’s great. It’s really, really good,” he said.

Parents have been prosecuted over truant children in the past, but this is the first case to have been brought in Canterbury under a new scheme called Rock On, which has six steps before a prosecution is made.

The girl’s mother was sent two letters from Linwood College. “And then there’s a knock on the door by the police, who serve a letter,” Robinson said.

The district truancy service takes the matter to the school.

“There’s an informal conference held at the school, where some of the agencies get together, along with the school, and discuss what the issues are.”

A further letter was sent informing the mother there would be a family group conference.

The family group conference put in place a series of steps, and when those failed to work the prosecution was made.

“We don’t want to prosecute parents for not having their kids at school, but we also want them to buy in to the process to get their kids ultimately re-engaged back in to school,” Robinson said.

The scheme was designed as a 16-week programme but had dragged on longer, he said.

Linwood College principal Rob Burrough said the student was back at school and doing well.

“She’s not a bad kid; it’s just she hadn’t been turning up to school,” he said. “Sometimes the tough-love approach is the best way because it is a shock to students when mum or dad is going to get prosecuted because they’re not going to school.”

He was delighted with the support of the police in taking the girl to school each day.

“They haven’t just dumped her. I knew he was doing that, and it’s great,” Burrough said.

Linwood is one of six schools in Christchurch trialling the Rock On scheme.

Robinson said further prosecutions were likely, with many students going through the family group conference stage.

Read It and Weep

The many negative aspects of public schooling are well reported in the daily papers.
Schools were also becoming seriously affected by social problems becoming in the worst cases mere baby-sitting services. Do you want your children to go to a school where social problems rule the programmes?
–Massey University vice-chancellor Dr. Neil Waters, Manawatu Evening Standard, 21 June 1991

CHRISTCHURCH: A 3rd- former at Kaikoura High School has been suspended after he admitted giving drugs to fellow students.
–Manawatu Evening Stnandard, 28 June 1991.

AUCKLAND: Hundreds of South Auckland school children spent a tense two hours confined to their classrooms as armed police hunted for a gunman after a man was shot near their school.
–Manawatu Evening Standard, 8 June 1991.

WELLINGTON: An average of 980 primary school children were killed or injured in road accidents each year during the ’80s, the Transport Ministry says. One third of all the casualties occured between 8am and 9am and 3pm and 5pm. Accidents were more evenly spread during holidays.
–Manawatu Evening Standard , 23 February 1991

SYDNEY: Children who go to child-care centres are more likely to get coughs and colds than those who remain at home, an Adelaide survey says. A research team has found the risk of picking up respiratory infections increases the earlier the child starts attending child-care and the longer the child spends there.
–Manawatu Evening Standard , 17 June 1991.

The School Trustees Association has warned schools to check job applicants thoroughly after a Christchurch language aide was convicted of sexually abusing his pupils.
–Dominion Sunday Times, 12 May 1991

WELLINGTON: Hutt Valley schools were more vigilant today after a man with a knife threatened a six-year-old at Eastern Hutt School yesterday.
–Manawatu Evening Standard, 18 April 1991

What I would like to see in the political debate about education is a recognition that public education is an exercise in social engineering by definition.
–Phillip Capper, PPTA, Dominion Sunday Times, 14 October 1990

CHRISTCHURCH: Unresearched government-decreed practices in schools could socially, emotionally and intellectually deform children, says Christchurch Teachers’ College principal Colin Knight. Dr. Knight said the education system placed children at risk by continuing to neglect educational research. “It is of serious concern to me that, despite the far-reaching effects of teaching on society, few educational practices have a sound research basis.” He said changes in what went on in schools were mainly brought about by politically initiated reviews and reports on questionnaires and Gallup polls, by parliamentary debate and political expediency.
–Manawatu Evening Standard , 4 December 1990

The Auckland Lesbian and Gay Youth group has been approaching schools asking to talk to staff and students about the difficulties that young gays and lesbians face and to suggest ways to make schools a more supportive environment for homosexual students.
–Dominion Sunday Times, 8 July 1990

Ad in Manawatu Evening Standard of April 1991:
Members of NZPPTA have voted to withdraw their labour for 24 hours on Tuesday, April 30, in accordance with the CTU day of action. The following secondary schools will be affected:
(nine schools listed)
Signed by:
Bronwyn Cross, Manawatu/Wanganui Regional Chairperson-NZPPTA”

WELLINGTON: About a third of Form 3 mathematics teachers are not qualified in the subject, a study of mathematics in secondary schools released yesterday says.
–Manawatu Evening Standard, 27 March 1991.

Only five percent of physics teachers in New Zealand schools were qualified in the subject.
–Massey University vice-chancellor Dr. Neil Waters speaking at SciTech 2000 conference in Wellington, and reported in the Manawatu Evening Standard , 21 June 1991.

Palmerston North’s Queen Elizabeth College Re-Invents the Wheel with “Achieve” Programme. Principal Alison Collett: “Teaching does not equate with learning when it is imposed on classes, and in one-hour slots in which students are controlled to conform, rather than empowered to learn.” (On the Achieve programme students) interact with each other in learning groups, which is unusual, as children at school ordinarily mix only with others from their own age group. Staff say this type of interaction results in improved interpersonal skills, by having children of not only different ages, but at different academic stages help each other. Co-operation is a big part of the programme.
–Manawatu Evening Standard of 23 March 1991 and 26 June 1991

Drug use among school-aged children is a major reason why achievement standards are slipping, according to Life Education national director Trevor Grice. Discussions with principals showed drug use was widespread in (NZ) schools and there were 500 drug- related expulsions last year.
–Dominion Sunday Times, 10 March 1991

TAURANGA: A playground game involving sinking teeth into an unsuspecting school mate’s bottom has left five students suspended. In the game, tagged barracuda, victims are forced to the ground and restrained while attackers bite a buttock.
— Evening Standard, 16 March 1991

During cross-examination, defence counsel Les Atkins QC played a rap tape made by the girl and her friend the same year as the alleged (sexual) offences (were committed against them). The tape contained obscenities as well as inferences about the girl’s current boyfriend’s sexuality. She said the obscenities on the tape sung by her had no meaning. Everyone at school used such language freely.
— Court Reporter, Manawatu Evening Standard, 19 February 1991

The School Trustees Association has warned schools to check job applicants thoroughly after a Christchurch language aide was convicted of sexually abusing his pupils.
–Dominion Sunday Times, 12 May 1991.

WELLINGTON: School insurance is proving too high a risk. Insurance of school furniture and equipment is proving too costly because of arson and vandalism.
–Manawatu Evening Standard, 22 Nov. 1990

Auckland: Detective Senior Sergeant Mark O’Connor said violence had been building up as one gang tried to move in on the other’s cannabis-selling territory. The gangs had been targeting schools in the area and the worst case was when they tried to sell drugs to 10-year-olds. Mr O’Connor said the gangs had caused problems for young people and their parents by peddling drugs in or around schools. Police knew that the dealers were waiting outside schools and in some cases getting into school grounds to sell to students.
–The Dominion, 16 Aug 1994

Author Alan Duff has questioned the motive of the primary teachers’ strike…(He) said (they) weren’t going on strike “for the kids, but for more pay. I have never known teachers go on strike in protest because there were no books in the homes, or because children were coming to school hungry.”
–Evening Standard, 11 July 1994.

Wellington: School Trustees Association deputy president Mark Farnsworth (said,) “I have a personal sympathy with them (teachers) over the issue, but I’m dismayed they have to go on strike, because once more children are the pawns of the game.”
–Evening Standard , 12 July 1994.

Invercargill: Six children were taken to Southland Hospital …after a school bus and a…vehicle collided near Nightcaps.
–Evening Standard, 22 July 1994.

Christchurch: Acceptance of school bullying as part of growing up, to build character, and teach survival skills, is no longer acceptable (!!!!!), says Commissioner for Children Ian Hassall. Bullying included standover tactics to get another child’s lunch, and serious physical abuse. Teasing on the basis of race, sex, and disability was also a form of bullying.
–Evening Standard, 22 July 1994

The bus left the road and landed in a ditch with much of its floor ripped out. About 40 Hamilton secondary school students were on board. Ten teenagers were injured and were taken to a medical clinic with grazes and bruises. A 15-year-old German exchange student was taken to Hospital with a fractured letg. It was the fifth bus crash in the North Island in the past month. Four have involved school buses. Police said initially fears were held for the safety of the students after an LPG tank in the dead woman’s car ruptured.
–Evening Standard , 23 July 1994.

New Zealand still lacked a quality education system, Education Minister Lockwood Smith said last night. “It comes as no surprise to me that the work of our Education Review Office has shown we have little idea just how effective our schools have been,” he said.
–Dominion, 3 August 1994.

Auckland: Two students at Auckland’s Mt Albert Grammar School have been suspended for four years after they were involved in a fight in which another boy received stab wounds.
–Evening Standard, 23 April 1994.

Auckland: Fires destroyed classrooms at two Auckland schools yesterday. Police blame arsonists.
–Evening Standard, 27 June 1994.

An Auckland boy who will be five in October has been refused entry to his nearest primary school, even though his two sisters go there.
–Evening Standard, 27 June 1994

Wellington: The Education Ministry has resorted to television advertising in its fight against truancy. Ministry communications manager M Deaker confirmed ??.that the ministry had begun a $300,000 campaign to try to boost school attendance.
–Evening Standard, 27 June 1994.

Wellington: Children are being used as pawns in the pay dispute… says School Trustees Association president Les Maxwell.
–Evening Standard, 9 July 1994

A book, Challenges and Change , was launched by the Family Planning Association yesterday. (FPA spokesman Ms Hughes said,) “Young people will make their own decisions to have sex or not, and it’s necessary they have the knowledge to make informed decisions. Abstinence isn’t the only option.” A course called Challenges and Change was launched last night at Auckland’s Penrose High School by Health Minister Jenny Shipley. The final session encourages heterosexual students (!!!!!!) to accept homosexuals and aims to build self esteem in gay and lesbian students.
–Evening Standard, 28 June 1994.

Wellington: Large increases in the number of pupils suspended from school showed the education system was failing to meet the needs of its consumers, (Youth Law Project education advocate Tim Howard said.) The high level of truancy also related to schools not being able to meet their students’ needs.
–Evening Standard, 5 July 1994.

Children as young as four were being banned from early childhood centres and schools because they were likely to kill themselves or their classmates if they stayed, Special Education Service Manukau North area manager Chris Hilton-Jones said yesterday….The case of a Christchurch eight-year-old being suspended from school for terrifying teachers and trying to strangle other children was “the tip of the iceberg”….Schools were “unsafe” and it was time teachers and principals stopped pretending violence did not exist….Some children….had been banned from kindergartens and kohanga reos because they were “severely dangerous”. She said pupils were….taking knives and bits of wood to school and using them as weapons. A survey of 960….pupils in South Auckland schools last year showed sexual abuse, serious assault and extortion were common….But the survey showed only half the cases were dealt with by schools when students did seek help.
–Dominion, 18 August 1994.

Parents, pupils and teachers of Feilding’s Manchester Street School….contemplated three classrooms destroyed by arson. A Ministry of Education property officer at the scene yesterday estimated the cost of repair or replacement of the block to be as much as $500,000.
–Evening Standard, 22 Nov 93.

Wellington: The Teacher Registration Board knew of some teachers, struck off the teaching register for poor performance, who were back in the classroom, director Peter Barlow said yesterday. There was a danger teachers with criminal records could be re-employed, he said.
–Evening Standard, 11 April 1994.

City pupils are turning to weapons to guard themselves against bullying. Senior constable Bob Filbee….is aware of the amount of bullying in schools — three-quarters of students normally put up their hands when he asks how many have been bullied.
–Tribune, 15 May 1994 ?

Auckland: A 12-year-old boy was punched unconscious during a gang initiation rite at a South Auckland intermediate school yesterday, police said.
–Evening Standard , 9 April 1994.

Allegations of physical abuse at Eketahuna School are being investigated by Palmerston North CIB.
–Evening Standard, 26 May 1994.

Rotorua: A former Rotorua school principal who indecently assaulted his pupils to satisfy his sexual appetite had disgraced his profession, Judge Fergus Paterson said in the Rotorua District Court yesterday. He jailed retired teacher Colhoun John Wiseman, 57, for three-and-a-half years on 11 counts of indecently assaulting young girls.
–Evening Standard , 9 April 1994.

Auckland: A strip-search of teenage girls at Otahuhu College in Auckland could result in parents suing the school, and an investigation by the Commissioner for Children.
–Evening Standard, 4 June 1994.

Poverty is having a far-reaching affect on Palmerston North’s schools…. Five schools are supplementing the diets of some students by providing them with food. And with truancy and violence on the increase, several schools felt their educational role was being undermined.
–Tribune , 12 June 1994.

Large numbers of people were unable to read when they left school — Common theme presented to Employment Taskforce’s visit to Palmerston North.
–Evening Standard, 18 June 1994.

Good NZ image masks “pockets of illiteracy”. Research by Auckland University education lecturer Tom Nicholson….showed poor reading levels were linked not just with Maori and Pacific Island students but also with other children whose first language was English.
–Sunday Times, 12 December 1993.

Wellington: About 10 percent of schools had “serious problems” and only 14 percent were up to standard, the Education Review Office said yesterday. Almost a quarter of schools were failing to consult the community on health education, particularly sex education.
–Evening Standard , 10 December 1993.