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Suspensions Are Down Because Kids Aren't In School

Thursday 2 May 2002

The Ministers of Education and Maori Affairs shouldn't be trumpeting reduced suspension rates for Maori students when the reality is that increasing numbers of Maori children simply aren't turning up to school, ACT Education Spokesman MP Donna Awatere Huata said today.

"There's less troublesome kids in the classroom because there's more of them on the streets.

"The Minister of Education has handed out a record number of `exemptions' to Maori drop-outs. He has knee-capped the truancy service to the extent that it barely exists, especially in low-income areas.

"In 2000, the Ministry of Education gave almost 900 `exemptions' to Maori children who wanted to drop out of school - principals indicate the figure will be even higher for 2001.

"The truancy service is hunting for at least 1,000 more children than five years ago. We have completely lost track of more than 500 children since January last year. Yet the truancy service's $1.3m contract hasn't been increased for five years, and restricts the service to finding a certain number of children each year.

"The fact that crimes committed by children jumped by 4,000 in just twenty-four months shows these kids are out on the streets, with this Minister's blessing. Schools don't have to suspend children when they have walked out of school with Government approval.

"What's needed are policies that keep young people interested in being in the classroom. The Minister of Education is solely interested in making his statistics look good, at the cost of the education of youth," Mrs Awatere Huata said.


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