July 11, 2020

Mum fearful of school fines

http://www.stuff.co.nz/4803156a11.html

Mum fearful of school fines

By REBECCA TODD – The Press | Friday, 26 December 2008

A Christchurch mother is angry at the prospect of having to pay heavy fines because she cannot get her son to go to school.

Under new laws passed by the National-led Government, parents of truants can be fined $300 for the first offence and $3000 for subsequent offences.

They can also be fined $3000 if they fail to enrol their child in school.

In the past, parents could be fined $150 for the first offence and $400 for subsequent offences.

Michelle Chalmers said her 14-year-old son had not been in school for much of this year, but she could not force him to attend.

“We haven’t got any control, but we are being prosecuted,” she said.

“How do you forcibly get them out of bed, into school and keep them there, and even if they are there, how do you make them learn? I just don’t understand what they want us to do.”

Chalmers put much of her son’s problems down to lead poisoning from eating flakes of house paint as a baby. He was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) before starting school and has behavioural issues that have brought him close to expulsion.

At 14, he was diagnosed as dyslexic, but Chalmers said it was too late by then to make him want to be in school and learn.

“I was dropping him off, seeing him walk in and picking him up at the same place, only to find out later he had been bunking,” she said.

The former Aranui High School student was no longer enrolled at any school, but Chalmers had not been threatened with prosecution despite her son’s prolonged absence.

“There’s nothing I can do to stop it and it’s heartbreaking,” she said.

“I know I’m not the only one out there.”

Linwood College principal Rob Burrough said the move to heavier fines was positive, but cases needed to be looked at individually.

“Part of it is parental issues and part is student problems, so I think a $3000 fine will have some impact, but there needs to be a multi-pronged approach,” he said.

“Some parents have lost control of their children by their own admission, and so this is a burden for them.”

Linwood has been trialling anti-truancy programme Rock On, in which the Ministry of Education, police, Child, Youth and Family and truancy services work with the school and parents to get students back in school.

Canterbury police youth services co-ordinator Senior Sergeant John Robinson said police were working on their third prosecution this year for parents of truants.

“We’ll never prosecute anyone if the child is the issue, only if the parent is the issue,” he said.

Heavier fines sent a message to people that attending school was a priority.

“No parent wants to be held out there having to front up before the court and told they are not a particularly good parent because they can’t get their kids to school,” Robinson said.

Hardcore truants by the thousand

http://www.stuff.co.nz/4798639a11.html

Hardcore truants by the thousand

By LANE NICHOLS – The Dominion Post | Saturday, 20 December 2008

Thousands of the most at-risk children are still missing from classrooms, forcing education officials to act as detectives hunting long-term truants.

Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft said the “unexploded time bombs” who were mainly male represented the hardcore youth offenders. It was unacceptable that so many had fallen out of the schooling system.

“They’re our toughest kids with a constellation of problems. As Youth Court judges, we’re terribly concerned by the lack of engagement in education of these top-end offenders.”

A year after The Dominion Post revealed a “lost tribe” of nearly 7000 children not enrolled at any school, the Education Ministry admits more than 2500 are still missing “on any given day”.

About 450 have not been to school in more than six months 148 of them in more than a year. Most are junior high school pupils.

Education Minister Anne Tolley has ordered an urgent briefing from officials and warned yesterday that parents who failed to enrol their children were jeopardising their futures and committing a serious offence.

Ministry senior manager Jim Greening said numbers had dropped significantly in the past year but the situation remained unsatisfactory. Pupils who dropped out of the school system were at risk of spiralling into trouble later in life, he said, potentially costing society millions of dollars through crime and their drain on health and social services.

“We’ve got people across the country working very hard on this issue. We want to give all these kids every chance we can.”

All the missing kids are aged under 16 so are legally required to attend class but have been absent for at least 20 days.

Mr Greening said the hardcore truants were revealed by a computer enrolment tracking system in all schools since August last year. More than 30 staff were employed nationally to find the truants.

Of the nearly 7000 cases identified last year, many of the most-difficult pupils had been hunted down and re-enrolled.

An information-sharing agreement with the Immigration Service showed thousands of others had left the country, or were on the list only because of processing errors. But many hundreds more were missing.

“Often they don’t have any address,” Mr Greening said. “[Officials] go to the place where the family was. If they’re not there, they’ll ask neighbours. It becomes a detective thing, I guess.”

The missing children often came from dysfunctional families with complex problems. Ministry officials sometimes alerted other agencies such as police and Child, Youth and Family. “The really long-term hard ones, our people might locate. But we know in three months’ time our people are going to be looking for them again because they won’t be in class.”

Judge Becroft said Youth Court judges had always suspected a group of up to 3000 pupils had fallen out of the education system, but the ministry had only now been able to quantify it.

Children’s Commissioner Cindy Kiro said non-enrolled children were being denied their right to an education.

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