Attendance in New Zealand schools 2015

Publication Details

This report is designed to provide a picture that will help school leaders and other sector representatives to understand patterns of attendance in New Zealand schools, and how these can effect achievement.

Author(s): Schooling Analysis, Education, Information and Analysis, Ministry of Education.

Date Published: August 2016

Executive Summary

The Ministry of Education is increasing the tools available to schools, to help them increase their understanding of absence and its impact on achievement. As a part of this, we are making changes to our yearly report on student attendance.

Every day a student is not at school is a day they are not learning, and we all have a part to play when it comes to keeping students in class. Schools, along with parents and guardians are legally responsible for ensuring children are attending, and this analysis is designed to support their efforts.

For a number of years, the Attendance Survey has been based on data collected in Term 2 and used to provide a week-long, national snapshot of attendance.

Thanks to the growing research and evidence base being produced, in particular in the United Kingdom and Australia, we can better quantify the significant impact that absence has on teacher workloads and student achievement. To support school leaders, and enhance the picture of attendance patterns in New Zealand schools, we have produced a national analysis across the whole of Term 2, which uses a different measurement for attendance.

It measures students' school attendance in half-days, whereas the traditional week-long snapshot used full days. Using half-days is more consistent with how schools record attendance, and we can use this to provide a picture of the impact attendance has on achievement for different groups of students. In this report, for example, we model the probability of Year 11 students achieving NCEA Level 1 in 2015 based on their attendance patterns beginning in Year 7.

The new measurement approach focuses on individual student attendance. An attendance rate is calculated for each student (e.g. attended 92 percent of half-days in Term 2) and reported on. The new student-centred approach gives school leaders, the Ministry and readers a more comprehensive understanding of student attendance.

The Ministry provides a range of support for schools to address poor attendance.  In the most severe cases of non-attendance schools can request the support of the integrated Attendance Service.  Earlier this year the Ministry introduced Every Day Matters an initiative to assist schools to turn attendance data into insights.  Schools can volunteer to join the initiative and receive customised attendance reports for their school in return.  The data is presented in an intuitive way, which will be enhanced over time, to assist schools with the development of their attendance strategy.

As well as the whole-term analysis, we have also provided the traditional week-long snapshot for continuity purposes.

Summary of 2015 Findings
  • For Year 11 students in 2015, there is a positive relationship between attending school and the probability of achieving NCEA level 1.
  • The percentage of students attending school regularly (defined in this report as more than 90 percent of half-days) increased in Term 2, 2015 compared to Term 2, 2014
  • Year 6 students had the highest level of regular school attendance. While Year 13 students had the lowest.
  • Māori students had the lowest levels of regular school attendance. However, the rate has been increasing for the last two years.  Asian students had the highest levels of regular school attendance.
  • A higher proportion of primary and intermediate school students attend regularly than students at secondary schools.
  • The proportion of students attending regularly increases as school decile increases.
  • School attendance slowly declined over the course of Term 2. From 93.2% half-days attended in the first week of Term 2, to 87.8% in the last week.
  • Unjustified absences increased noticeably in the middle and end of Term 2.  In 2015 holidays during term time were captured separately for the first time and recorded as an unjustifiable absence.

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