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Education Ministry Considers Drop Outs A 'Success'

Sunday, September 30 2001

The Ministry of Education considers helping hundreds of truants to formally drop out of the education system as a 'success', ACT Education Spokesman Donna Awatere Huata revealed today.

Mrs Awatere Huata is stepping up her call for a central database to be created to monitor enrolments and identify long term truants. In the past week, Mrs Awatere Huata has revealed New Zealand is breaching its United Nations obligations by not enforcing legislation for compulsory schooling. She has published figures showing the Government has completely lost track of hundreds of children who have dropped out of school, and is searching for hundreds more children aged under nine. (See attached Fact Sheet)

"Today, answers to my Parliamentary Questions reveal the Government considers it has reached a 'successful outcome' if it helps a child gain an 'exemption' from attending school. In other words, the Ministry believes it has done its job well if children are given a pat on the back for truancy and allowed to stay outside of the system.

"Last year NETS 'facilitated' 234 exemptions. In just the first two terms of this year, 120 kids were helped to drop out completely. At that rate, at least another 240 children will be completely outside the system by the year's end.

"In almost every case, an exemption is simply the Government's way of condoning truancy.

"It is a message to every New Zealand child that it's okay to drop out: the Education Ministry will spend thousands of dollars hunting you down, and even give you a certificate guaranteeing you never have to return to school in your life.

"Granting exemptions is seen as an easy solution. In fact, it's no solution at all. Long-term truancy has obvious links to child prostitution, crime and delinquency.

"A central records database is necessary. But that's not all. We need an urgent inquiry into how this Government handles long term truants.

"Exemptions should not be granted except in the most drastic of circumstances. As Mr Mallard himself said on February 26, 1997: By agreeing to exemptions the Government is basically relieving itself of any responsibility for these young people.

"Urgent action is needed. It is too late for hundreds of children. But there are hundreds more, primary school-aged, who we can still help," Mrs Awatere Huata said.

ENDS

Key Facts

Students are supposed to be referred to the Non-Enrolment Truancy Service (NETS) if teachers and principals note they have not attended school for longer than 20 days.

In 2000, 257 children could not be found at all, while NETS helped 462 get exemptions.

In just the first two terms of this year, 85 kids could not be found and NETS 'facilitated' another 120 exemptions.

NETS receives $1,331,750. This has remained unchanged for five years, despite the number of referrals jumping by 1,000 in that time ( see press release, Friday 29 September, 2001 ) .

Total Referrals 1997: 3172 children were referred to NETS, 698 could not be found.1998: 3082 children were referred to NETS, 614 could not be found.1999: 4092 children were referred to NETS, 781 could not be found.2000: 4037 children were referred to NETS, 878 could not be found.

Referrals by Ministry of Education Region
Auckland: 1999, 1375 Referrals2000, 2146 Referrals

Hamilton: 1999, 614 Referrals2000, 783 Referrals

Napier: 1999, 190 Referrals2000, 230 Referrals

Wanganui: 1999, 292 Referrals2000, 451 Referrals

Lower Hutt:1999, 367 Referrals2000, 500 Referrals

Christchurch:1999, 139 Referrals2000, 184 Referrals

Dunedin:1999, 108 Referrals2000, 142 Referrals

Information from Parliamentary Questions 13116, 13104, 13105, 13106,
13112, 13127 (2001); Parliamentary Question 008227 (1999)


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