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Ministry-Approved Drop Outs Rocket Upward

Ministry-Approved Drop Outs Rocket Upward

Monday, October 1 2001 Donna Awatere Huata Press Releases -- Education

Ministry of Education approvals for children to drop out of school early have risen almost one thousand per cent since 1993, and 'exemptions' are being granted for younger children than ever before, ACT Education Spokesman Donna Awatere Huata revealed today.

Information obtained through Parliamentary Questions show that 3,246 children were granted an early exemption to leave school last year. In comparison, just 314 students were allowed to leave early in 1993.

"Under this Government, even younger children are dropping out. Mr Mallard campaigned on reducing the number of exemptions, yet his Ministry seems to be handing them out like lollies, to any child that asks for one.

"Of great concern is the fact that 33 of these Ministry-approved drop outs were aged 14 or less. This is a frightening development. Last year was the first occasion in a decade that Section 22 of the Education Act has even been used to grant a single exemption to a child aged under 15.

"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 Government will even give you a certificate, guaranteeing you never have to return to a classroom in your life.

"These children are destined to spend their lives on benefits and in jail.

"Most of these children have been long-term truants. I revealed yesterday that the Non-Enrolment Truancy Service (NETS) considers it has reached a "successful outcome" if it helps a long-term truant gain an exemption.

"This Government must introduce a central database to monitor enrolments, so we can identify children who drop out of one school and don't enrol in another. This way, we won't let these kids get so far behind that the only choice is to let them drop out.

"It is criminal for the Government to continue doing nothing. I wrote to Ministers last week calling on them to urgently introduce a central database to monitor school enrolments. Only Parekura Horomia has even acknowledged receiving my letter.

"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.

"Exemptions should not be granted except in the most drastic of circumstances. And they certainly shouldn't be handed out at the alarming rate that this Government is," Mrs Awatere Huata said.

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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