Absent pupils a concern

In your court . . . South Otago High School principal Mike Wright and South Otago attendance service adviser Margaret Cardno are encouraging pupils and parents to call them for a helping hand back into education. PHOTO: NICK BROOK


Post›pandemic, schools throughout New Zealand are working hard to bring pupils’ attendance back to normal.

Following two and a›half years of lockdowns and disruption, reports throughout the country have indicated a significant number of pupils remain absent, and many others are short of motivation and learning credits, with effects worst among year 13.

As exam season awaits, New Zealand Qualifications Authority figures to September 20 show an average of 32.5 credits per pupil, an improvement on the past two years but 3.9 fewer than in 2019.

NCEA levels two and three each require 60 credits.

At South Otago High School, principal Mike Wright and South Otago attendance adviser Margaret Cardno said a significant drop in attendance during term 1 and 2 was to be expected, due to those months having the nation’s highest Covid›19 transmission rates.

‘‘Students experienced Covid themselves or had close contracts and we are enormously appreciative of their efforts in doing the right thing in isolating to make our environment safe,’’ Mr Wright said.

‘‘Our role now is to reach out and be there for families, and offer support to re›engage students who’ve dropped out.’’ Mrs Cardno works with 25 schools throughout the district. She said not all had attendance issues, but those that did were seeing benefits from her organisation’s service which had received about 30 referrals of children who should be attending. ‘‘School improves life opportunities, including social, sporting and cultural options,’’ Mrs Cardno said.

‘‘It connects community with lifelong friendships and networks based on education. The compulsory years set you up for the later years where your options really broaden, so young people out of school are at risk of being disadvantaged by being isolated from those opportunities.’’

Children aged 6›16 are legally required to be engaged in registered education but law enforcement is rare and a last resort.

Attendance advisers aim to support families long before the need for legal involvement, utilising health and social services when necessary.

‘‘Schools have a mental wellbeing focus — especially after the pandemic. We remove barriers such as anxiety after prolonged absence and help with health concerns and complex family situations.’’

Mr Wright said he was pleased to have Mrs Cardno on hand.

‘‘Our goal is to have all students reaching at least 90% attendance, which is no more than one day away a fortnight, because every day counts.

‘‘A call from Margaret is an offer to help. Parents or students seeking advice and assistance can easily get in touch with her by contacting their school.’’