Statistics on students' attendance from state and state integrated schools in Aotearoa New Zealand have become a discussion of importance to political elections. School attendance and truancy are much more than a politician's talking points. Educators and researchers know that students' attendance is linked to both student wellbeing and attainment. In other words, every day in school matters. And for some student groups, especially those students in low decile schools, attendance is particularly important.
In Term 2 of 2022, 39.9% of students attended schools and kura regularly. Regular attendance is the percentage of students attending more than 90 per cent of halfdays within a set period, usually a school term. For Term 2, 2022, this time-period consisted of 10 school weeks (96 half-days), consistent with most previous years. The attendance records of 757,776 students were reported and processed from 2,265 schools and kura (92.3% of all state and state-integrated schools and kura) for this period. This represents 96.8% of the student population in all state and state-integrated schools and kura on 1 July 2022.
This chart below, recently published by Education Counts, shows the dramatic changes in school attendance rates from 2019 to 2020.
According to the Ministry of Education's report, "Students and ākonga attending school and kura regularly - Term 2, 2022" Education Indicator: Student Engagement / Participation, there was a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases in the community which remained high in Term 2 2022 (see the Ministry of Health website on COVID-19 cases). They also reported that there had been a substantial rise in absences due to short-term illness/medical reasons, which coincides with the rise of COVID-19 and typical winter illness in 2022. The report continued with a supposition that the increase in medical absences showed that students and their parents chose to follow Ministry of Health advice for students to stay home if unwell. This type of absence was recorded as justified and made up 8.6% of all term time in Term 2 2022 - compared to 5.3% in 2021.
The following chart from page 4 of the Term 2, 2022 report shows the percent of term time in Term 2 from 2019-2022 by attendance codes.
In a recent research paper by Andrew Webber (He Whakaaro: What is the relationship between attendance and attainment? Ministry of Education, February 2020), the data showed 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. This trend shows up whether that is a student moving from 100% to 99% attendance or moving from 71% to 70% attendance. Even if students are absent only 5-10% of the time (which is still considered “regular” attendance), they obtain fewer NCEA credits than those with higher attendance rates. Webber insists that there is no “safe” level of non-attendance without impacting negatively on student and ākonga wellbeing and attainment.
The Ministry of Education also offered a "Frequently Asked Questions" document that accompanied the Term 2 2022 attendance data release. In this document, they summarised the drop in attendance trends across population groups. Regular attendance decreased for all their usual reporting groups. However, some groups decreased more than others.
- Ethnicity: Students of Māori or Pacific ethnicities continued to experience lower regular attendance rates. However, between 2021 and 2022, regular attendance rates for Asian and European/Pākehā students decreased more (20.1 and 21.0 percentage points decrease respectively) than for Māori and Pacific students (17.4 and 18.4 percentage points decrease respectively).
- Decile: Students in lower decile schools continue to experience lower regular attendance rates than students in higher decile schools. However, rates for higher decile groups decreased more than lower deciles from Term 2 2021 to 2022: deciles 9-10 decreased 21.4 percentage points while deciles 1-2 decreased 18.5 percentage points.
- Primary vs. Secondary: In Term 2 2022 primary students had a larger decrease in regular attendance rates compared to 2021 than secondary students. Year 6 students had the largest difference in rate, from 67.1% in 2021 to 43.2% in 2022, a difference of 23.9 percentage points. Year 13 students had the smallest difference in rate, from 42.1% in 2021 to 31.3% in 2022, a difference of 10.8 percentage points.
Read more about the details in the Ministry of Education's report (a .pdf file) at "Students and ākonga attending school and kura regularly - Term 2, 2022" Education Indicator: Student Engagement / Participation.