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School Too Hard? Drop Out - Labour

School Too Hard? Drop Out - Labour

ACT New Zealand Education Spokesman Deborah Coddington today accused Labour of consigning thousands of youngsters to the scrapheap, in light of new information showing that approvals for children to leave school early have risen 1,179 percent since 1993.

"Information I have obtained from the Education Ministry has revealed that 3,703 children were granted an early exemption to leave school in 2002 - this is of serious concern, especially when compared to the 314 students allowed to leave before their 16^th birthday in 1993," Miss Coddington said.

"Education Minister Trevor Mallard is letting children drop out in droves. Before the 1999 election, he campaigned to reduce the number of exemptions - and has failed dismally. Now the Ministry appears to be handing them out like lollies, to any child that asks for one.

"This is Labour's way of condoning and hiding truancy. It is a clear message to every New Zealand child that it's okay to drop out. Mr Mallard will say exemptions are only granted to 15-year-olds who can prove they are going into work or further training. This is nonsense. The harsh reality is that many of these children are destined to spend their lives on benefits or in jail.

"The Minister seems apathetic about turning these figures around. Rather than addressing the issues behind truancy, Mr Mallard would rather let these children leave school - sure, they have no future ahead of them, but at least his truancy rates are down.

"This is a remarkable U-turn from Mr Mallard who, as Opposition education spokesman said, `By agreeing to exemptions the Government is basically relieving itself of any responsibility for these young people'. Now he is doing the same.

"Exemptions should not be granted except in the most drastic of circumstances - not when things get too tough for Mr Mallard to deal with. He must put a stop to this easy `out', so that no child is left behind," Miss Coddington said.

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