Attendance, absence and truancy in New Zealand schools 1996

Publication Details

This report documents the results of a survey of all state and state integrated schools in New Zealand carried out in 1996, designed to capture student attendance and absence over one week.

Author(s): Jacquie Kerslake and Debbie Lang, Ministry of Education.

Date Published: March 1998

Executive Summary

This report describes a national survey of attendance, absences and truancy at state intermediate and secondary schools in Term 3 of 1996 in New Zealand. Also included is information collected each term from schools involved in a Ministry of Education funded Initiative for Improving School Attendance as part of the Ministry's Truancy Project. The Research Unit of the Ministry of Education undertook the research for the Truancy Project Team.

The arithmetic mean has been used to represent the rate for absences overall, as well as for justified absences, unjustified absences, intermittent unjustified absences, and truancy (the latter two combined). Attendance rates were around 90% for each of the school sectors. The average rates for absence overall were 6.8% for intermediate schools, 8.4% for composite schools and 12.7% for secondary schools. The average rate for absence overall for primary schools in a Ministry of Education funded Initiative for Improving School Attendance was 7.2%. Justified absences made up the largest proportion of absences, although in the secondary schools the justified absence rate was matched by the truancy rate.

As has been the case in other studies, variations did occur when analysed by different variables. For all schools, the highest rate for absences of any kind was generally on Friday, and the lowest on Wednesday. As one might expect, rates for justified absences were higher in the middle terms (winter) than in the summer terms.

Over half the schools sent in a copy of their school policy on recording absences. When recording, the majority of schools distinguish between justified and unjustified absences. Schools are most likely to use the register of attendance (E19/1) for recording absences. However, the majority of composite and secondary schools also used a period by period school record.

Whilst few schools indicated how useful their school had found the truancy initiatives in which they had been involved in 1996, those that did generally found the initiatives to be very useful or useful.

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