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Taking on absenteeism and truancy

Ross Dunn - Principal of Mercury Bay Area School.

Here at Mercury Bay Area School we are making a concerted effort to focus on improving our students' attendance rates across all year levels.

Going to school is critical for our children’s futures. The evidence is clear that every day of school matters - missing school leads to lower achievement. Covid 19 has badly disrupted attendance, but even before the pandemic, Aotearoa had lower attendance than other countries. And alarmingly, attendance is falling - between 2015 and 2019, there was a 12% decrease in learners who were going to school regularly. Across Aotearoa, declining attendance is seen across all school types and ethnicities. At Mercury Bay Area School our attendance aligns with national trends at 79.7% to the close of Term 2. That equates to over 200 hours out of the classroom during a learning year! Collectively, we need to do better.

Attendance is linked to student attainment in secondary students. Recent research shows that each additional half-day of absence from school and Kura is associated with a consistent reduction in the number of NCEA credits students subsequently attain - whether that is a student moving from 100% to 99% attendance or moving from 71% to 70% attendance. Students who are absent even 5 -10% of the time (which is still considered ‘regular’ attendance), nevertheless obtain fewer NCEA credits than those with high attendance rates.

Aside from the impact on learning and attainment, from a wellbeing perspective, firm rules, boundaries and consistent consequences are actually vital for the psychological health of our young people for a number of reasons.

This is a developmental stage in their life where our students are still learning essential skills like self-discipline, how to regulate emotions and behaviour, and how to have and enforce boundaries for themselves in relationships with other people. They are also forming concepts of safety in the world around them; thus, knowing and being able to predict what happens when people break rules and expectations helps them to experience a more solid sense of security.

Rules create necessary structure and help foster a significantly greater sense of responsibility, self-regulation and decision-making. Research also supports that students who perceive their own school rules are being implemented consistently, experience a stronger and healthier sense of ‘self’. Love them or hate them, school rules - and indeed our own family rules at home - help give our young people some super positive essential traits for when they eventually leave us to take their place in adult society and the real-world workplace.

To that end, Mercury Bay Area School is beginning a number of initiatives to improve attendance at our Kura. We will have a number of ‘passes’ that students will need to present if they are late to school, out of class or are absent without communication from home, either for random blocks within a day or a whole day. Each of these steps rely on communication between the Kura, whanau and the community. We are all in this together!

Note: Already this term we are noticing that classes are settled and that students are getting to classes on time. This is really encouraging and shows us that we’re on the right track! We hope to see a positive trend in terms of statistics that supports this. Further initiatives will continue to be rolled out as the term progresses with community engagement at the top of the list!

“Research also supports that students who perceive their own school rules are being implemented consistently, experience a stronger and healthier sense of ‘self’.”

Ross Dunn

Caption: Ross Dunn.


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