The Education Review Office launched an investigation into why New Zealand is falling behind other countries in school attendance rates.

Forty percent of parents are comfortable with their child missing more than a week of school a term.Forty percent of parents are comfortable with their child missing more than a week of school a term. (Source: 1News)


It found that although Covid-19 badly disrupted attendance, there were serious issues even before the pandemic.

“Between 2015 and 2019, the percent of learners regularly attending school dropped from 70% to 58%,” head of ERO’s education evaluation centre Ruth Shinoda said.

This put New Zealand far behind countries like Australia at 73% and the UK at 87%.

Forty per cent of New Zealand parents are comfortable with their child attending irregularly, missing more than a week of school a term.

This rate of irregular attendance would equate to learners missing a year of schooling by the time they turn 16, and is linked to lower achievement.

According to Shinoda, “We need to urgently turn around New Zealand’s falling attendance rate if we want to see our children achieve.

“We need to improve parents’ understanding of the importance of going to school and their awareness of how often their children are going to school.”

Many parents are choosing to prioritise other things, with two-thirds preferring to keep their children home for a family, cultural, or special event and a third happy to take their child out of school for a week-long holiday or a sporting event.

Aside from parental complacence, barriers to attendance include mental health challenges, students not liking their teachers, bullying, and tiredness.

These issues are particularly impactful on the attendance rates for Māori and Pacific students, as well as students with disabilities.

Although students in low decile schools view regular attendance as more important, they tend to have more trouble with school resources and transport.

Fixing school attendance rates “will require action from government, communities, schools, parents, and the learners themselves,” Shinoda says.

To reverse these trends, the report recommends action to stress the importance of regular attendance, improve awareness of how often learners are attending school, tackle barriers to attendance, and make school a better, more engaging place to be.

For this study ERO collected surveys of 2641 Year 4 to Year 13 students and 1133 parents of school-aged children and conducted focus groups with parents, learners and teachers.