National | Education Review Office

ERO points the finger at parents for the truancy crisis

Parents who are comfortable with their child missing school are more than twice as likely to have a child who misses school regularly, a new study has shown.

The Education Review Office says only two in five children regularly go to school in New Zealand

Covid-19 has had a big impact but, even before the pandemic, attendance was low and falling.

ERO says new insights have found what the biggest drivers of children going to school are and what families and schools can do to help.

“We have found that many parents don’t value going to school regularly and this really matters, ERO Education Evaluation Centre head Ruth Shinoda says.

ERO found four in ten parents are comfortable with their child missing a week or more of school a term.

“This matters - parents who are comfortable with their child missing school are more than twice as likely to have a child who misses school regularly,” she says.

'Skipping school' leads to more truancy

“We also found that when parents let children miss school on a particular day, for example to avoid an activity, children are more likely to miss school regularly. Letting children miss school sometimes can shape their attitudes to going to school.

“It is really important that children see going to school every day as important. A third of children do not. And the research shows this makes them more likely to miss school.

“What happens at school matters too. Learners are also more likely to miss school if they find schoolwork too hard, can’t participate in some activities, don’t like people in their class, don’t like a teacher or aren’t interested in what is being taught.

Changing parents’ attitude

“It is clear we need to shift parents’ attitudes toward attending school and also help learners to enjoy school more and see how important it is for their futures,” Shinoda says.

“Schools cannot solve the attendance crisis alone. But they can help parents to understand the impact of missing school and how often their children are going to school.”

“Schools can also help by focusing on the biggest drivers of attendance - for example they can help learners to see how school is important for their futures. ERO welcomes the government’s attendance and engagement strategy and support for schools to turn around attendance.”

“Going to school every day is vital for achievement in Aotearoa, and by understanding what causes learners to miss school we can turn it around,” Shinoda says. “ERO hopes that its latest insights will support schools to improve attendance.”

ERO also says learners who miss a week each term will have missed out on more than a year of schooling by the time they are 16.