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Drop-out Tracking System Causes Minister to Recant

Drop-out Tracking System Causes Minister to Recant

Tuesday, October 2 2001 Donna Awatere Huata Press Releases -- Education

The Education Ministry's tracking system for children who drop out of school is in such complete chaos that Minister Trevor Mallard had to recant an answer to a parliamentary question today, ACT Education Spokesperson MP Donna Awatere Huata said.

"Mr Mallard was forced to admit that a 'mathematical miscalculation' in the database that records statistics on drop outs had caused him to answer a question incorrectly.

"All I wanted to know was the childrens' ages. Yesterday, Mr Mallard said that 33 children who were given exemptions from school were aged 14 or under. That would be illegal: exemptions are only allowed to be granted to 15 year olds.

"Today, we had a complete turn-around from Mr Mallard. The database had wrongly classified the 33 children, he claimed. Today's story is that no children aged 14 or under have been granted exemptions.

"The Ministry's tracking systems are obviously in a total mess. This Government is handing out exemptions from school like they are lollies, then not even bothering to properly record the details of these at-risk kids. Ministry approvals for children to drop out of school early have risen almost one thousand per cent since 1993

"This highlights the urgent need for a proper, central database that monitors all enrolments. The piecemeal system we have can't handle the most simple requests.

"I have written to Ministers calling on this Government to implement the database. Until we have one, we have absolutely no way of knowing how many children have completely dropped out of the system.

"What we do know is that in the past two years, 342 children as young as six or seven have dropped out of school, failed to enrol in another, and never been found. That figure is likely to be conservative, because many drop-outs are not even referred to the Truancy Service so nobody searches for them.

"The Government cannot continue to remain silent while we have twelve year olds on the streets that haven't been to school in two years. If Mr Mallard opposes this good idea, then he should come out and explain why. Otherwise, he must implement a database urgently," 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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