Supporting attendance and student engagement

Supporting attendance and student engagement

Information for schools and kura to support attendance and student engagement during COVID-19.

Parental concerns

There may be some parents and caregivers who decide to keep their child at home for a period, for different reasons. For example, some of them may be worried for their child’s health or are very concerned that their child may bring COVID-19 into their home, particularly those who have family vulnerable to illness as a result of COVID-19.

Have a conversation

Where students are being kept at home because of parental anxieties, schools should work with those parents and caregivers to understand their reasons for keeping their children away from school and support their return to school.
Under this approach, schools should emphasise the clear benefits for learning and wellbeing, that the benefits outweigh the risks, and that the risk mitigations in place at school (for example, ventilation requirements and mask use) make school a safer place than many other environments.

Attendance codes

  • Absences due to parental concerns that attendance at school is unsafe because of the risk of contracting COVID-19 should generally be considered unjustified and coded as ‘E’ (the student is absent and the reason is explained but considered unjustified).
  • There may still be some cases where a parent is keeping their child at home because they or another household member is at higher risk. In these cases, schools should work with those parents and caregivers to support the child’s learning and code the student as ‘F’.
  • If a student is engaged in distance learning because they are undertaking mandatory self-isolation or the school site is closed, we recommended schools use code ‘F’.
  • In the event a student’s absence is unexplained or they are unwell, principals can continue to use their own professional judgment in using codes ‘J’ (‘justified’ absence – the reason is within the school policy), ‘M’, ‘T’ or ‘E’.

Managing student attendance -

Referrals to the Attendance Service

The Attendance Service remains available to schools and kura.

More information about Attendance Service and list of providers -

The priority remains to have children and young people learning in-person at school where possible. 

Unjustified Absence referral

If you expected a student to return, or begin at your school, at the start of term one and they have not, and you would like assistance, you can make an unjustified absence referral to the Attendance Service. The Attendance Service will work with you in the engagement and support of the student and their whānau.

You can also make an unjustified absence referral if a student has returned in term one but is regularly absent from school.

Non-enrolment referral

If students are continuously absent, they can be non-enrolled from school. Becoming non-enrolled can create an additional barrier to a student returning to school. As a first step we recommend making an unjustified absence referral to the Attendance Service.
Make a non-enrolment notification to the Attendance Service where:

  • you believe the student has moved and is unlikely to re-enrol in another school.
  • you believe the student will not return to your school.
  • the student has been absent for 20 consecutive school days without an indication that the absence is temporary or the student engaging in distance learning.

The decision as to what is “temporary” is for the principal to determine using their professional judgement, and will depend on individual circumstances. For example, an absence may be considered temporary if the whānau have advised they are waiting two weeks for the ākonga to have their second vaccination, or for an immunocompromised household member to have their booster. It is unlikely to be considered temporary if the whānau is waiting for COVID-19 to pass.

You cannot have both referrals open for the same ākonga

If you have made an unjustified absence referral to the Attendance Service and subsequently decide to non-enrol that student, you will need to advise the Attendance Service to close the unjustified absence referral before you make a non-enrolment notification, otherwise an error will occur in the system. This is because you cannot have both ‘unjustified absence’ and ‘non-enrolment’ referrals open for the same ākonga.

Supporting student engagement and wellbeing

More health advice is available on the Ministry of Health website.

COVID-19 health advice for the public – Ministry of Health