Being engaged in learning really matters, right from a child’s first days in early learning, throughout primary schooling and secondary schooling. Aotearoa New Zealand’s children need every opportunity to learn, participate, and flourish by regularly attending school or kura. Every school day is a big day when you are young.
Understanding the problem
Kia ora for dropping in and becoming involved. Read this page in te reo Māori.
Regular attendance at school is important for our children’s learning, wellbeing and their futures.
School attendance data has shown a marked decline since 2015. Right now, almost half of our tamariki do not regularly attend school.
Not only are they missing out on important learning they need, but they miss out on friendship, connections, and fun moments.
But together we’re changing that.
This website has some information and other resources you may need to get ‘All in for Learning’. We need everybody to play a part in helping lift attendance and engagement in learning for all our children.
Irregular attendance affects everyone
Term 2, 2021 attendance figures show:
- the decline in attendance has been for everyone: every ethnicity, every decile and every region has experienced declines
- our greatest decline has been in children aged 5 to 10 (primary school)
- right now, two in every five of our tamariki are not attending school regularly (40 per cent).
We asked New Zealand what they thought about attendance
We surveyed New Zealand about attendance and our research results found:
Ākonga not attending/going enough to school is only a top-of-the-mind concern for five per cent of New Zealanders
- If a child or young person is absent for two or more days a fortnight they are considered irregularly absent.
- However, there are some discrepancies around what defines regular and irregular attendance amongst New Zealanders and the degree to which it is a problem, with just under half considering non-attendance to only become a problem at moderate or chronic levels (more than two days per fortnight).
What makes every school day a big day?
In Aotearoa, all children under 16 years of age are required to attend a registered school every day, unless they are sick.
We know there is a direct correlation between regular attendance and NCEA achievement. (Source: He Whakaaro Report: Relationship between attendance and attainment, 2020). A Year 11 student who attends school every day has about a 90% chance of achieving NCEA Level 1, but this drops to a 1-in-5 chance if they only attend school half of the time.
But that’s not all. Schools are the hub of any community and are places where our children and young people learn – find out what they are interested in, learn more about who they are or who they want to be, their communities, our histories, different cultures, and the wider world. It’s also where many people meet their life-long friends.
What counts as regular attendance?
Understanding regular attendance levels is a useful gauge for how ākonga are participating in learning. It helps schools and the Ministry of Education direct resources and support to where they are most needed.
Regular attendance = attending more than 90% of the time or being in school 9 days a fortnight.
It becomes a more serious problem when our tamariki don’t attend regularly:
- Irregularly attend = more than 80% and up to 90% of the time, or being in school 8-9 days a fortnight
- Moderately attend = more than 70% and up to 80% of the time, or being in school 7 or 8 days a fortnight
- Chronically attend = 70% and less of the time, or being in school 7 days or less a fortnight.
All in for Learning - the Attendance and Engagement Strategy
Our Attendance and Engagement Strategy sets out our expectations for children attending school regularly. It also sets out 13 priority actions that we believe will make the biggest difference to attendance.
As a community, we all have a role to play to support our tamariki to be present, participating and progressing in learning.
Regular attendance is so important we have set some targets
By 2026, we want to:
- increase the number of children attending regularly (i.e. 9 days a fortnight) – to 75%
- lower the number of children who are moderately absent (i.e. 8 days a fortnight) – to 4%
- lower the number of children who are chronically absent (i.e. 7 days or less a fortnight) – to 3%.
Together with schools, we will do this by:
- working across agencies to reduce the barriers to children attending
- setting expectations on attendance with the communities, and notifying parents when their children are absent and following up
- providing a welcoming environment for all children
- ensuring there are strong relationships between schools, parents and their whānau
- acknowledging there are a number of societal and whānau factors that impact on the capability, opportunity and motivation to engage in school.
Our initial focus is on four priorities:
- Empowering ākonga and their whānau to engage in education.
- Strengthening school and kura engagement practice.
- Strengthening system enablers and supports for engagement.
- Strengthening cross-government collaboration to address barriers to engagement.
What are we doing now?
Following the release of the strategy our immediate actions are:
- launching a national communications campaign
- providing packs for schools so they can tailor communications with their communities
- supporting targeted regional actions that support improvements in irregular and chronic attendance.