School attendance is important, but truancy (that’s when kids skip too much school) is a growing problem. It’s been getting worse since 2015, and it’s something we need to tackle. In this article, we’ll look at the laws around school, what parents need to know, and how the government is trying to help kids get to class on time.

Key Takeaways

  • School attendance is legally required in New Zealand, with truancy defined as frequent lateness, class or day absences without valid reason.
  • Persistent truancy can lead to legal consequences and removal from school rolls after 20 consecutive days of unexplained absence.
  • The government aims for 80% of students to attend school regularly by 2030, in response to the decline in attendance rates since 2015.
  • Parents play a critical role in ensuring their child’s attendance and may face legal implications for their child’s persistent absenteeism.
  • Support options include the Correspondence School, alternative education providers, and potential exemptions from compulsory schooling.

Attending school is compulsory by law

Understanding the legalities of school attendance

Alright, fellow mums, let’s have a little chinwag about something that might sound as dry as a week-old scone, but it’s important nonetheless: the legalities of school attendance. 

First things first, our little cherubs are required by law to be in school once they hit compulsory school age. It’s not just about them learning their ABCs and 123s; it’s about them being somewhere safe and sound during the school day. And let’s be honest, it gives us a bit of peace and quiet too, doesn’t it?

Compulsory attendance laws make sure every child gets their fair share of learning and growing. And if you’re wondering when exactly compulsory school age starts, it’s the term after they turn 5 – so keep that in mind when you’re planning those birthday bashes!

And remember, attendance isn’t a ‘pick and mix’; it’s all or nothing. Public school or not, the kiddos need to be there, learning and making friends (and maybe a bit of mischief).

So, while we juggle our million and one mum duties, let’s not forget that getting the kids to school is one of the biggies. It’s a shared responsibility, and we’re all in this together!

If you ever feel like you’re in a pickle, there’s plenty of help out there. From the school’s attendance officer to the friendly folks at the Parents Legal Information line, there’s always someone ready to lend an ear and a helping hand. And let’s face it, we all need that from time to time!

Consequences of persistent truancy

Now, I’m not one to scaremonger, but let’s have a chinwag about what happens if your kiddo decides that school’s out forever. First off, the school might give them a taste of detention, which is about as fun as watching paint dry.

But it’s not just about missing a bit of maths or English. Persistent truancy can lead to a whole host of problems, like expulsions or even, heaven forbid, a brush with juvenile delinquency. And trust me, no one wants to go down that road. It’s like opening a can of worms where the worms are actually a court order and the can is your front door.

The role of attendance officers in schools

Oh, the joys of getting the little ones ready for school in the morning! It’s like herding cats, isn’t it? But once they’re out the door, it’s up to the school to keep an eye on them. That’s where our unsung heroes, the attendance officers, come into play. These folks have a knack for turning up just when you’re in your dressing gown, sipping that second cuppa, to chat about why little Johnny has been missing more maths lessons than he’s been attending.

Attendance officers are not just there to wag a finger; they’re part of the team that helps keep our kids on track. Here’s a little list of what they can do:

  • Visit us at home to discuss any reasons behind truancy
  • Arrange family group conferences
  • Find and return our kids to school during school hours
  • Offer referrals to other services for extra support

If a child is truant for more than 20 days in a row without a good reason, and we haven’t been in touch with the school, it can lead to them being removed from the roll. And nobody wants to see that happen, right?

Now, I’ve heard some mums say that attendance officers are like a gentle nudge when life gets a bit chaotic. But let’s be honest, sometimes it’s more than just a nudge that’s needed. If things get really tough, and the usual ‘I don’t wanna go to school’ turns into a serious case of absenteeism, that’s when the big guns come out. We’re talking court, district attorneys, and school board meetings that make you wish you’d paid more attention in that legal drama series.

Most of the time, it’s about working together with the school principal, and the school personnel to make sure our kids are getting the education they deserve. And remember, these officers are here to support us, not just enforce the obligations. So, if you’re ever in a pickle, don’t hesitate to ask for help. After all, it takes a village to raise a child, and attendance officers are part of our village!

So what can you do to help?

Encouraging regular attendance at home

Here’s the thing, ensuring our little cherubs hit that more than 90% attendance mark isn’t just about avoiding a call from the attendance officer; it’s about setting them up for success in life. So, how do we make this less of a battle and more of a breeze?

First, let’s talk about the morning routine. A predictable start to the day can work wonders. I’ve found that a good breakfast, a laugh over a silly joke, and a double-check for the infamous ‘forgotten PE kit’ can set the tone for a positive day.

For more ideas check out our article on positive, helpful rituals and routines.

Consistency is key. A regular bedtime and morning wake-up time can help more than you’d think.

Now, I’m not saying it’s easy. We’ve all had those mornings where the bed seems to have developed superglue overnight. But, with a bit of planning and a sprinkle of patience, we can encourage our kids to see school as a non-negotiable part of their day.

Here’s a little list I’ve put together to keep us on track:

  • Establish a solid morning routine (and stick to it!)
  • Keep breakfast fun and nutritious
  • Prepare school bags the night before
  • Set consistent bedtimes and wake-up times
  • Celebrate attendance milestones with a small reward

Remember, it’s not about being perfect; it’s about progress. And if all else fails, there’s always the promise of a hot chocolate after school to sweeten the deal!

Identifying and addressing the causes of truancy

Oh, the joys of parenting pre-teens and teenagers! Just when you think you’ve got it all sussed out, they throw you a curveball like truancy. But here’s the thing, understanding why our little darlings might be skipping school is the first step to getting them back on track.

It’s not just about playing hooky; there’s usually more to the story. Maybe they’re bored out of their wits, or perhaps there’s a bit of trouble brewing with mates. It’s a bit like being a detective, piecing together clues to crack the case. So, let’s put on our Sherlock Holmes cap and get down to business, shall we?

  • Feeling bored at school
  • Struggling with schoolwork
  • Issues with friends or bullies
  • Anxiety or other emotional troubles

It’s crucial to have a natter with your child and really listen. Sometimes, they just need to know you’re there, ready to lend an ear and a helping hand without going all ‘Judge Judy’ on them.

Once you’ve sussed out the reason, it’s time to take action. Chat with their teachers, look into support services, or maybe even consider a change of scenery if the school’s not the right fit. Remember, it’s about finding a solution that works for your family. And who knows? With a bit of teamwork, your child might just start thinking school’s not such a bad place after all.

Collaborating with schools for better attendance

Oh, the joys of getting the little ones to school on time, every day! It’s like herding cats, isn’t it? But here’s the thing, working hand-in-hand with the school can make a world of difference. Schools are our allies in this daily battle, and they’ve got some nifty tricks up their sleeves.

For starters, schools are now on the ball with tracking attendance. It’s not just about marking the register; it’s about spotting patterns. And guess what? They’re sharing this data with us parents. So, if little Johnny is missing more Maths lessons than he’s attending, we’ll know about it quicker than you can say ‘Pythagoras’ Theorem’.

Here’s a cheeky little list of what schools are doing:

  • Mandating daily reporting of attendance data
  • Developing a Traffic Light System for different attendance levels
  • Making attendance a strategic priority for school boards

And it’s not just about the stick; there’s plenty of carrot too. Schools are rolling out campaigns to show just how cool attending school can be. They’re updating public health guidance, so we know when to keep our sniffly cherubs at home, and they’re making sure school boards are crystal clear on what’s expected of them.

So, let’s get on board with these initiatives. It’s a team effort, after all. And remember, a school that’s clued up on attendance is a school that’s looking out for our kids’ best interests.

It’s all part of the government’s Attendance Action Plan, and it’s about getting everyone singing from the same hymn sheet. We’re talking about a partnership here, where we, the parents, play a crucial role. So, let’s lace up our boots, team up with the schools, and show attendance who’s boss!

You are legally responsible for your child’s truancy

Defining parental responsibility in school attendance

Alright, lovely mums (and dads, of course), let’s talks about this whole ‘parental responsibility’ malarkey when it comes to our kiddos and school. First things first, it’s not just about making sure they’ve got their PE kit and a packed lunch. We’re actually legally on the hook to get them to school every day. Yes, you heard that right. It’s the law, and it’s not just a gentle suggestion.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, ‘But my little angel would never skip school!’ Well, I thought the same until I found out my cherub had been bunking off to play footie with his mates. So, it’s not just about trust; it’s about keeping an eye out and making sure they’re where they’re supposed to be.

Here’s the skinny on what’s expected of us:

  • Ensuring our children attend school regularly
  • Communicating with the school about any absences
  • Working with the school to resolve any attendance issues

And if you’re wondering about the nitty-gritty, the Ministry of Education has a guide called ‘Student attendance: Guide for schools and kura’ that lays it all out. It says, schools and kura, along with whānau | parents, are legally responsible for making sure students attend school every day.

So, if your little one is trying to pull a fast one, remember, it’s our job to steer them right. And if you need help, there’s always the school’s attendance officer or the Parents Legal Information line. We’re in this together!

truancy in New ZealandLegal implications of your child’s absenteeism

Now, we all know that sometimes our little angels might have a legitimate reason to miss school, like an illness or a family emergency, which is considered an excused absence. But what about those unexcused absences, eh? When they’re ‘sick’ with a mysterious 24-hour bug that miraculously clears up just in time for their mate’s pool party?

Here’s the skinny: if your child racks up too many unexcused absences, you could be in for more than a stern letter from the headteacher. Persistent truancy can lead to fines, and in some cases, even prosecution. It’s like that time I found my youngest trying to convince me he had chickenpox – turned out to be felt tip dots! Cheeky monkey. But I digress.

Chronic absenteeism isn’t just about playing hooky; it can be a sign of deeper issues like bullying, substance abuse, or mental health concerns. And let’s not forget suspensions, which are a whole different kettle of fish. Those are lawful absences, but they still mean your child is missing out on valuable learning time.

So, what’s the damage if the law gets involved? Well, fines can start from a light pinch to your purse to a full-on wallet wallop. And trust me, that’s money better spent on school uniforms and those never-ending growth spurts.

To keep things on the straight and narrow, here’s a quick rundown of what counts as a lawful absence versus the kind that’ll have you rummaging for spare change:

Supporting your child to avoid legal repercussions

First things first, if your child is playing hooky more often than they’re attending school, it’s time for a sit-down chat. And I don’t mean a lecture; I mean a proper heart-to-heart to understand what’s going on. Is it the early mornings? The maths teacher? The canteen’s mystery meat pie? Whatever it is, getting to the bottom of it is key.

Now, if things escalate and you find yourself receiving letters from the school or, heaven forbid, the juvenile court, don’t panic. It’s not the end of the world, although it might feel like it when you’re in your pyjamas at 8 pm and there’s a knock at the door from someone who isn’t delivering pizza. Prosecutors can be involved if truancy becomes a persistent issue, but often there’s room for negotiation and finding a lawful excuse.

Here’s a little list of steps to consider:

  • Chat with your child’s teacher or attendance officer sooner rather than later.
  • Explore any underlying issues that might be causing the truancy.
  • Work with the school to create a plan of action that might include support from external agencies.

Remember, the family court is always the last resort, and there are plenty of steps to take before things get that far. So, keep your chin up, and let’s tackle this together, one school day at a time!

What do I do with a child who doesn’t want to go to school?

Understanding your child’s reluctance to attend school

Oh, the joys of parenting, where every day is a new adventure, especially when it comes to getting the little ones off to school. It’s like herding cats, isn’t it? But sometimes, it’s not just a case of the Monday blues; there can be real, heartfelt reasons why your child might be digging their heels in at the front door. It’s crucial to get to the bottom of their reluctance.

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? One day, it’s ‘I don’t like my teacher,’ and the next, it’s ‘My tummy hurts.’ But occasionally, these excuses can be the tip of an iceberg. From feeling under the weather to finding school as stressful as a maths test on a Monday morning, our kiddos can have a whole host of reasons for not wanting to attend school.

Sometimes, it’s about peeling back the layers to discover if there’s something more going on. Is it a case of schoolyard jitters, or is there a deeper issue at play?

Here’s a little list of common reasons that might be causing your child to shy away from school:

  • Bullying or friendship troubles
  • Struggling with schoolwork
  • Health issues, including mental health
  • Stressful or traumatic events

If you suspect it’s more than just a fleeting phase, it’s time to don your detective hat and have a heart-to-heart. A little empathy can go a long way, and remember, you’re not alone in this. Schools have support systems in place, and there’s always professional advice available if you need it. So, keep your chin up, and let’s tackle this together!

Exploring alternative education options

Let’s face it, not every child is a square peg for the round hole that is mainstream schooling. And that’s perfectly okay! If your little one is more of a rebel without a cause when it comes to the school gates, it might be time to look at what else is out there. Alternative education programmes can be a real game-changer for some families.

Now, I’m no expert, but I’ve heard through the grapevine (okay, it was the school district newsletter) that there are options aplenty. From Correspondence School to finding a provider that’s a bit more ‘outside the box’, there’s hope yet for keeping our kiddos on the learning ladder. And let’s not forget, sometimes it’s about finding the right fit, not changing the kiddo to fit the school!

Here’s a little list I’ve whipped up of some alternative education options:

  • Correspondence School
  • Specialist alternative education providers
  • Online learning platforms
  • Vocational training programmes

And if you’re thinking, ‘But what about the legal stuff?’ – don’t worry! The Attendance Service might suggest these very options if your child is struggling with mainstream schooling. It’s all about keeping them engaged and learning, even if it’s not in a traditional classroom setting.

Just remember, every child’s education journey is unique, and there’s more than one path to success. So, keep your chin up and your options open!

Seeking professional advice and support

Mental health, we all know it’s a biggie, especially when our little cherubs decide they’d rather do anything but go to school. Now, I’m no expert, but I’ve been down this road, and let me tell you, seeking professional advice can be a game-changer.

First things first, have a natter with the school’s teacher or guidance counsellor. They’re usually clued up on what’s what and can offer a sympathetic ear. If you’re still at your wits’ end, here’s a little list of who else can lend a hand:

  • The school’s attendance officer or principal
  • The Parents Legal Information line (just dial 0800 499 488, easy peasy!)
  • Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children
  • The local police’s youth aid team

Sometimes, our kiddos just need a bit of extra support to find their mojo again. And remember, it’s okay to ask for help – it doesn’t make you any less of a supermum!

If the usual suspects don’t do the trick, consider getting a referral to the Attendance Service. They’ve got providers dotted around the country who are dab hands at working with schools and families to coax the youngsters back to class. And trust me, they’re not the ‘banging on your door’ type – they’re more the ‘let’s sort this out together’ sort.

Other help

Government’s Attendance Action Plan

To help the increasing truancy issue the government created the Attendance Action.  Now, I know what you’re thinking, ‘Not another thing to read!’, but bear with me, it’s actually quite nifty. It’s like they’ve finally realised that getting the little darlings to school isn’t always as easy as pie.

In summary, the government wants 80% of our nippers in school more than 90% of the time by 2030. Ambitious, huh? Last I checked, we were at a measly 53.6% hitting that mark.

Now, they’re not just throwing this out there without a paddle. They’ve got a few tricks up their sleeve:

  • Weekly attendance data will be published from the second week of Term 2.
  • A communications campaign is rolling out to remind us all why it’s so important for the kids to be in school. (As if we need reminding when we’ve had them at home all day!)
  • They’re updating the public health guidance, so we know whether to send our little ones to school or keep them home with a sniffle.
  • And they’re making sure school boards know what’s expected of them. (About time, I say!)

Now, between you and me, I’ve had my fair share of ‘family emergencies’ that have turned into an ‘excuse’ for a day off. But with this plan, it looks like we’ll all need to be a bit more on the ball. The government is hoping that with better data, they can spot the barriers to attendance and whip up an intervention plan quicker than you can say ‘referral’.

And let’s not forget our trusty attendance officers – they’re the guardians at the gates, aren’t they? Always there with a friendly notification if your little angel has decided to play hooky.

So, let’s give this plan a chance, shall we? It might just be the ticket to getting our kids on track. 

Utilising the Correspondence School and alternative providers

When your little angel starts acting more like a rebellious teen, refusing to go to school, you might feel like you’re at your wit’s end. But just remember that there’s a whole world of alternative education options out there!

For starters, have you heard of the Correspondence School? It’s like the Hogwarts for home learners, minus the magic wands and flying broomsticks, of course. It’s a fantastic option for kids who need a different learning environment or have other commitments that make regular school attendance tricky.

And if that doesn’t tickle your fancy, there are other service providers who offer a more bespoke educational experience. These can range from online courses to hands-on workshops that can reignite your child’s love for learning. Here’s a little list of what you might consider:

  • Online learning platforms that cater to different learning styles
  • Specialist tutors for subjects your child might be struggling with
  • Educational workshops that focus on practical skills
  • Local community classes that can provide a more relaxed learning atmosphere

Remember, the goal is to keep our kids engaged and learning, even if it’s not within the four walls of a classroom.

So, if your child is doing the hokey pokey with school attendance – one foot in, one foot out – don’t despair. There’s a buffet of educational options out there, and with a bit of research, you’ll find the perfect fit for your child. Just like finding the right pair of shoes, it might take a few tries, but once you find it, you’ll both be walking on sunshine!

Considering an exemption from compulsory schooling

First things first, exemptions are not handed out like sweets at a birthday party. The Ministry needs to be convinced that you’re up to the task of providing an appropriate programme of education at home. It’s a bit like auditioning for a part in the school play, but instead, you’re the director, producer, and lead actor all rolled into one!

Here’s the skinny on what you need to know:

  • Your child can wave goodbye to the school gates before they hit 16, but only if you get the green light from the Ministry.
  • You’ll need to show that you’ve got a solid plan for your child’s education – think curriculum, resources, and how you’ll measure progress. No pressure, eh?
  • It’s not just about academics; socialisation is key too. So, you’ll need to think about how to keep your kiddo from turning into a hermit.

Now, I’m not saying it’s a walk in the park, but for some families, home education is a brilliant diversion from the traditional school route. It can lead to a personalised learning journey that might just end in a fabulous graduation ceremony in your living room!

Remember, this isn’t about taking the easy way out. It’s about doing what’s best for your child. And who knows? With the right approach, those years of age spent learning at home could be the most rewarding of all.


As we’ve explored, ensuring our children attend school is not just a legal obligation but a crucial step towards their future success. The government’s ambitious target to boost attendance to 80% by 2030 reflects a commitment to reversing the troubling trend of declining school attendance. 

While the journey ahead may be challenging, with recent initiatives like the Attendance Action Plan, there is a clear path towards improvement.

As parents, educators, and community members, we must work collaboratively to address the underlying issues of truancy and support our children in valuing their education. Together, we can strive to create an environment where every child recognises the importance of regular school attendance and is equipped to seize the opportunities it brings.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does the law say about school attendance?

It’s against the law for children in New Zealand to not go to school between the ages of 6 and 16. Regular attendance is crucial and being truant, which includes being late or missing classes without a good reason, is illegal.

What are the consequences of persistent truancy?

If a student is truant for more than 20 school days in a row without a valid reason, they can be removed from the school’s roll. The government is also focusing on reducing absences due to illness as part of their Attendance Action Plan.

What is the government’s target for school attendance?

The government aims to have 80% of students regularly attending school by 2030, which means being present for more than 90% of the term.

How has school attendance changed over the years?

Regular school attendance has been declining since 2015. In 2023, only 53.6% of students met the criteria for regular attendance, a significant drop from the 69.5% recorded in 2015.

What options are available if my child doesn’t want to go to school?

Parents can explore alternative education options such as the Correspondence School, seek professional advice, and consider an exemption from compulsory schooling if necessary.

For more expert advice on your child’s education, check out our School age: Education section.

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Thelma Britt

When I worked in Ministry of Education Auckland we had a truancy team of 12 people and a big database connecting the Intermediate Schools with us so that we could check with the High Schools that these people leaving the Intermediate School system were enrolling at High School. The National Government cancelled all Truancy teams around the country. We had found that 30,000 children hadn’t enrolled at High School and had contacted parents and they were nearly back to High School within a couple of years. Christchurch didn’t have a Truancy Team and that explains Boy Racers, Violence, parties like… Read more »

Jarrod Rendle

Yes, it’s a really sad epidemic in this country. Education is one of the most important keys to lifting people out of poverty. But, unfortunately, many kids from impoverished communities just aren’t making it through our school system. In fact, the numbers are so bad it wouldn’t be unfair to call it a systemic failure. Thanks for sharing. — Jarrod

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