Earlier this year we  had this kind of thing from government:

“This Government is determined to get tough on truancy, and we have doubled the amount of funding to tackle the problem. An additional $4 million per year will help schools introduce stronger and more proactive measures to reduce truancy rates.”


The government  became determined to get tough on truancy because the Ministry of Education released a report on truancy that had the following revelations:

  • Kids wag school
  • About the same as the last survey
  • 18 year olds wag more than 12 year olds
  • Friday is a popular day to wag

I’m glad we have people at the Ministry tied up with compiling this kind of stuff because it really is gold.  Perhaps the Ministry of Labour could do similar research on workplaces.  I wonder if that study would find that:

  • People have sickies
  • Friday is a good day for a sickie
  • Or Monday

The second half of the truancy report has further illuminating information:

  • Kids from low income areas wag
  • Asians don’t wag, but Pacific Islanders and Maori do
  • People wag heaps in Gisborne; not so much in Otago-Southland

Huh.  It’s almost as if the truancy of some students  is exacerbated by generational poverty and parental role models with negative educational experiences and low income jobs or welfare dependency.  At least that’s what I would conclude from the report.  Let’s see what policy the Government came up with to address this:

  • allowing more schools to use electronic attendance registers, enabling them to quickly identify casual truants before they become regular truants;

  • encouraging more schools to implement the Early Notification System, which automatically sends a text message to parents whose children are missing from school without explanation

  • Funny thing is that over the last couple of years our school has implemented both of these things.  We do our rolls on the computer, and we send automated texts to the parents of students who are marked absent.  What kind of impact has this had?

    I think I could say that it has enabled the staff  in our office to get more abuse.  Sometimes the parents of hard core truants text abuse back, sometimes they telephone and leave abusive messages.   Those that hang on to the same cellphone number for more than a month that is, because, of course, the whole system is predicated on the kind of parent who will give you reliable contact information, and will up date it, and will actually want to be contacted.


    Problem: “truancy of some students  is exacerbated by generational poverty and parental role models with negative educational experiences and low income jobs or welfare dependency”

    Solution: Automated text system.

    Still, it makes a good headline: “Getting Tough on Truancy.”  Well, better than “Wasting Money on Pointless Text System Easier than Trying to Address Real Issues”, which I think we can all agree is a terrible headline.

    4 thoughts on “Wagging”

    1. Here’s a thought. How about making school a far more tolerable place for teenagers? What if school took as much interest in the wellbeing of its students as their presence.

    2. I would argue that this school is more tolerable that most- the majority of kids love coming back to school after the holidays.

      When the text system came in it made my day about 5 minutes shorter, but it took away some of the frequent communication with my form class parents. Calling to talk about an absence usually meant other issues were discussed also, so we could help the student’s wellbeing by getting closer to the heart of the issue(s).

      You’re right though, it is (yet another) surface solution to far deeper and harder to tackle social issues.

    3. “the majority of kids love coming back to school after the holidays.”
      Mainly because they have little to do and school is a good place for being with friends. I saw a student at school yesterday who had been stood down. There he was at school because what else was there to do?
      I love the way students like him spend all day running away from teachers and then, when they’re told they can go, they don’t want to.
      Maybe we need a special mobile teacher task force – fit young teachers who run around with these students reciting great literature and mathematical equations?

    4. Another problem with the automated text system is that kids update their parents number as their own number.
      It’s a lot easier to pretend to be your own parent through text than on the phone.

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