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More Primary School Children Are Dropping Out

ACT Education Spokesman MP Donna Awatere Huata today revealed figures showing the number of primary school children dropping out of school is rising.

"Labour must introduce a central database to track down the children who drop out of one school and don't enrol elsewhere.

"Without such a system, we have to rely on teachers and principals alerting the Non-Enrolment Truancy Service (NETS), which then searches for that child.

"Answers to my parliamentary questions show that in 1999, nineteen percent of NETS referrals were for children aged nine or under. Last year, that went up to twenty-one percent. At the end of term two this year, twenty-two percent of the kids NETS were hunting for were under the age of nine.

"I wrote to the Education Minister and Associate Ministers yesterday, calling on them to create a central database to monitor all school enrolments.

"We should have a zero tolerance policy toward long-term truancy with kids so young. Mr Mallard 'hopes' to start a brief trial of a database monitoring 15-17 year-olds, at some stage in the future. That's too little, too late. For one thing, it's the wrong place to start. We especially need to ensure our youngest kids are in school.

"New Zealanders were appalled a week ago to discover that a twelve-year-old boy - the youngest person charged with murder in New Zealand - had not attended school in two years.

"The law is clear: the Ministry and the principal of a child's last school have an obligation to ensure children are in the system.

"But overburdened principals can't do it alone. This Government must urgently create a central database of primary and secondary enrolments. Only when this exists will we be able to avoid the heartache and fall-out caused by letting our youngest kids go years without attending school," Donna Awatere Huata said today.


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