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Ogilvy: Charge truants' parents $27 a day

Media Statement For immediate release
Thursday, 2 October, 2003

Ogilvy: Charge truants' parents $27 a day

The Government needs to get serious on truancy and charge parents of truant children what it costs to educate each child each day - $19 for primary students and $27 for secondary students, United Future's Bernie Ogilvy said today.

"And it should be an automatic charge, not a long, drawn-out court case. If school attendance records indicate that the child is absent without adequate explanation, then the parent is fined for the cost of the day's education.

"The Education Act allows for a ludicrous maximum $150 fine - is that the value we place on a child being cheated of its education?" Mr Ogilvy, United Future's education spokesman, asked.

"Yesterday we saw a woman found guilty of keeping her children away from school, yet she was given no penalty, but every day a child is not at school, the taxpayer of still pays $18.85 for primary and $27.48 for secondary students."

Mr Ogilvy said the idea was far fairer than the misconceived National suggestion of cutting the benefits of truants' parents.

"National has based that on the huge and fallacious assumption that all truants are the children of beneficiaries. That's a rather jaundiced Tory view of the world and is simply not true.

"What I'm suggesting targets precisely those parents who are failing their children - and there are plenty of those types in the paid workforce," Mr Ogilvy said.

Long-term, however, the solution lies in addressing the causes of truancy.

"And that means identifying the problems in the family that present a barrier to attendance, and getting social service agencies involved.

"But the problem at the moment is identifying these kids in a systematic way. At the last three elections Labour promised to establish a national student database that would track this kind of information, but now they say that a pilot won't be ready until at least 2005," he said.

Repeated truancy shouldn't be dismissed as just a bit of wagging, he said.

"It has serious implications for the young person concerned and for society.

"Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft noted recently that up to 30% of youth crimes are committed while the perpetrators are supposed to be at school."

A recent crackdown on truants by police in Auckland coincided with a dive in the daytime burglary rate, Mr Ogilvy said.

"The bottom line is that for every day that kids aren't in school, their education slips further and further behind, and crime eventually becomes less a matter of choice, and more and more the only viable employment option for illiterates."

Ends.

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