A Manawatu truancy officer is hoping he will hold on to his job when changes to how the Education Ministry contracts truancy services come into effect.
Feilding's Kerry Searancke – who is employed by Lytton St School – is among 153 truancy officers who will lose their contracts as the ministry moves to disestablish New Zealand's two truancy providers.
The ministry is spending $3.4 million on a new integrated Attendance Service to crack down on unjustified absences.
The new service, worth $7.8m, would combine the District Truancy Service (DTS) and Non-Enrolled Truancy Service to create a centralised system with service providers for 18 regions.
It would be up to the service providers whether they employed officers such as Mr Searancke.
"We're hoping to keep the service as is, in our area," he said. "We are passionate about our jobs because kids are important. Education is important."
Mr Searancke said he would go looking for as many as 10 pupils a day. Some would be sick and the parents had forgotten to contact the school. Others would be wandering the streets or hanging out.
There are two employed truancy officers in Manawatu – one each in Feilding and Palmerston North.
Education Ministry senior manager Marilyn Scott said it was seeking "suitably qualified and capable organisations", and it was expected new providers would want to continue to work with existing truancy officers, schools and interested parties.
An extra $3.4m a year would go towards the service and, while the number of attendance officers would be determined by the new providers, "it was expected more frontline staff will be engaged".
Feilding Truancy Service chairman and Lytton St School principal Geoff Lovegrove said the decision to centralise the service was a surprise.
"We've never had any complaints about the level of service," he said. "There's a whole range of initiatives that the Ministry of Education has been putting into place in the past few years and really it's to pull back local authority and control back to the centre. Suddenly the support isn't in Feilding, it's in a different city."
Mr Lovegrove said it received $21,000 a year from the ministry to pay for Mr Searancke's 30 hours a week and provide him with a car, a cellphone, computer and office.
He said both Feilding and Palmerston North services were in talks with the region's provider to keep their officers employed.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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