Truancy from school
What We Have Found
Unjustified absence rates have not significantly changed since 2004 and remain substantially higher amongst Māori and Pasifika students.
Date Updated: August 2012
The average number of unjustified absences per day per 100 students (truancy rate).
Why This Is Important
Students who are truant or, more precisely, are unjustifiably absent from class have an increased risk of alienation from the education system.
Sustained truancy affects educational achievement and can lead to significantly diminished opportunities later in life. A New Zealand study (Hughes, 1999) found student attendance during Year 11 to be one of the most significant variables influencing student achievement in senior secondary school. Furthermore, truants with lower reading achievement had the highest risks for adverse outcomes. Longitudinal studies of Christchurch and Dunedin children have found truancy to be a strong
predictor of violence later in life, and predictive of delinquency, substance abuse, suicidal risk, unemployment and early parenting. Linkages between truancy and crime are of considerable concern.
A 2001 report from the UK Office of Standards in Education noted that a focus on truancy alone is insufficient to sustain changes in student attendance. It found that strategies that have effectively improved attendance and behaviour in English schools have been incorporated with efforts to raise achievement.
How We Are GoingThe unjustified absence rate is the number of absences that cannot be explained or that are not explained to the satisfaction of the school per 100 students enrolled.
Unjustified absences can be classified by length as either intermittent absences (up to half a day) or non-intermittent absences (more than half a day).
In this indicator we only consider non-intermittent absences.
In 2011, the non-intermittent absence rate was 2.3 per 100 students. Absence rates are Year Level (or age) specific. This means students in higher Year Levels are more likely to be truant than students in lower Year Levels. Therefore when comparing absence rates between years we tend to use Year Level standardised rates. This removes any differences due to one year having a younger or older student population.
Note: This measure relates to the number of days that individuals had unjustified absences.
The 2011 rate of 2.2 was very similar to the Year Level standardised rates per 100 students of the three previous attendance surveys in 2004 (2.2 per 100), 2006 (2.4 per 100), 2009 (2.4 per 1000).
Unjustified non-intermittent absence rates for primary and intermediate school-aged students (Year 1 to Year 8) are
substantially lower than for secondary school-aged students. For secondary school-age students, the rate of unjustified absences increases with years at school.
Ethnicity is a significant factor with regard to unjustified absences from school. Māori (4 per 100 students) and Pasifika (3.4 per 100 students) unjustified non-intermittent rates are over twice high as the European/Pākehā rate (1.5 per 100 students). The rate is lowest among Asian (1.2 per 100 students).
Figure 2: Unjustified non-intermittent absence rates, by school type (2011)
- Composite includes restricted composite.
- Secondary (Year 9-15) includes teen parent units .
There is a clear correlation between the socio-economic mix of the schools that students attend and the unjustified absence rates. Schools in the lowest quintile (deciles 1 and 2) draw their students from communities with the highest degree of socio-economic disadvantage. In 2011, the non-intermittent absence rate for students from these schools was more than 4 times higher than the rate for students in the highest quintile (deciles 9 and 10).
Figure 3: Unjustified non-intermittent absence rates, by quintile (2011)
There was very little difference between female and male rates (2.3 and 2.2 per 100 students). In Year Level 1, both genders had a non-intermittent rate of 1.9 absences per 100 students, but the rates increase to 4.7 and 4.2 for female and male students in Year Level 13 respectively
Where To Find Out More
To obtain information about other forms of student disengagement consider the following indicator:
The Ministry of Education has established an Iterative Best Evidence Synthesis Programme to systematically identify, evaluate, analyse, synthesise and make accessible, relevant evidence linked to a range of learner outcomes. Evidence about what works for this indicator can be found in:
Quality Teaching for Diverse Students in Schooling: Best Evidence Synthesis The Complexity of Community and Family Influences on Children's Achievement in New Zealand: Best Evidence Synthesis.
- Alton-Lee, A. (2003). Quality Teaching for Diverse Students in Schooling: Best Evidence Synthesis. Wellington: Ministry of Education.
- Biddulph, F., Biddulph, J. and Biddulph, C. (2003). The Complexity of Community and Family Influences on Children's Achievement in New Zealand: Best Evidence Synthesis Wellington: Ministry of Education.
- Bloom, B.S. (1974). Time and learning. American Psychologist. 29: 682-688.
- Cosgrave, R., Bishop, F., and Bennie, N (2003). Attendance and Absences in New Zealand Schools in 2002. Wellington, Ministry of Education.
- Fergusson, D.M, Lynskey, M., and Horwood, L.J. (1995). Truancy in adolescence. NZJLS, 30(1), 25-37.
- Hughes, D. et al. (1999). Do Schools Make a Difference?: Hierarchical Linear Modelling of School Certificate Results in 23 Schools: The Smithfield Project, Phase Three: Eighth Report to the Ministry of Education. Wellington.
- Martin, M.O., Mullis, I.V.S., and Chrostowski, S.J. (Eds.) (2004). TIMSS 2003 Technical Report. Chestnut Hill, MA: International Study Center, Boston College.
- Martin, M.O., Mullis, I.V.S., Gonzalez, E.J., and Chrostowski, S.J. (2004). TIMSS 2003 International Science Report: Findings from IEA's Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study at the Fourth and Eighth Grades. Chestnut Hill, MA: International Study Center, Boston College.
- Ministry of Education (2010). Attendance and Absences in New Zealand Schools in 2009. Wellington, Ministry of Education.
- UK Office of Standards in Education. (2001). Improving Attendance and Behaviour in Secondary Schools. Strategies to Promote Educational Inclusion. London: Office for Standards in Education.