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UF Policy: Time to Get Tough on Truancy

Friday, 18 March 2005

UF Policy: Time to Get Tough on Truancy

Something needs to be done about the fact that at any one time, in any one class, one child is absent, and establishing a national student database to track children’s attendance in school must be the first step, United Future leader Peter Dunne said today.

“The database was part of Labour’s manifesto for the 1996, 1999, and 2002 elections, but we’ve seen little in the way of action.

“A database is essential if we are to replace the current fragmented system of monitoring, and would make it easier to ensure that parents were held accountable for their children’s lack of attendance.”

United Future’s education spokesman Bernie Ogilvy said “The database would also assist in tracking transient students whose schooling is disrupted by moving from school to school.”

In other moves to shift responsibility back on to parents for truancy, United Future would provide for education authorities to seek ‘parenting orders’, requiring the parents of chronic truants to attend parenting classes, as well ‘parenting contracts’, whereby the parent and the school agree on steps they will take to improve the child’s behaviour.

To emphasise the fact that children must attend school by law, United Future would also increase the fine for parents from $15 a day to $18 a day for primary and $27 a day for secondary students, since this is how much it costs the taxpayer per pupil regardless of whether they attend or not.

According to Mr Ogilvy, these measures would be balanced by a number of other policies designed to stop truancy from becoming a problem in the first place, including commitments to:

Improve classroom discipline by developing ‘responsible behaviour agreements’, to be signed by disruptive students, their parents and the school principal setting out expectations for improved behaviour, steps to be taken, and consequences for failure.

Establish restorative justice-styled disciplinary programmes in schools to combat bullying and other misbehaviour, requiring the student to understand the implications of his/her actions, involving the parents, and arriving at a punishment (e.g. community service, maintenance around the school) that is an alternative to suspension or expulsion.

Resource alternative education providers to work with at-risk youth who have dropped out of mainstream schooling.

Ensure that all schools implement an integrated character education programme.

In addition, District Truancy Services and the Non-Enrolment Truancy Service would be merged, its funding increased, and the new organisation would work more closely with schools to ensure that they respond quickly to truants before it develops into a bigger problem.

“It’s just common sense really. The money we spend on fighting truancy now will be saved down the track many times over in terms of keeping people out of prison and off welfare benefits, not to mention the social benefits,” said Mr Ogilvy.

ENDS

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