12 Apr 2024

School attendance held back by sickness - Ministry of Education

2:16 pm on 12 April 2024
sick kid with runny nose and fever heat lying on couch at home

Sickness remains the main driver of non-attendance (generic image). Photo: 123rf

Just over half of students regularly attended school in term four last year, up on the same term in 2022.

Fresh figures from the Ministry of Education show 53.6 percent of students met the criteria for regular attendance - present for more than 90 percent of the term.

That was 3.5 percentage points higher than term 4 in 2022, but still 12.5 percentage points lower than the same term in 2019.

All regions saw improved attendance, with the largest increase in Waikato - up 6.6 percentage points.

There was an increase across all year levels too, and the trend of higher attendance between years 1 and 6 followed by a fall through intermediate and secondary years remained.

Term four last year was the first not to be affected by Covid-19 health requirements, like self-isolation, since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, the ministry said.

But sickness was still the main driver of non-attendance.

"Comparisons to previous years are impacted by the government's Covid-19 response," it said.

"In term four 2023, absences due to short-term illness/medical reasons declined for the first time since 2020, but remain higher than 2019."

But the pandemic was still heavily influencing attendance, with messaging during that time reflecting an "abundance of caution", it said.

"Post-pandemic, attendance messages need to balance caution with getting students back to school.

"There are some learners with minor symptoms and mild anxiety who could and should be at school, but continue to miss school, which increases gaps in their learning."

The government this week announced a plan in a bid to improve attendance.

It included a traffic light system with "clear obligations" for students not attending school, increased data reporting, a public communications campaign, public health guidance about when a student is well enough to attend, and setting attendance as a strategic priority for school boards.

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