Truancy service pleases schools

IAIN SCOTT
Last updated 12:00 07/03/2014

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Tararua schools dissatisfied last year with a truancy service shake-up are happy with the service now, but some think the area is too large for one truancy officer.

However, the Ministry of Education says the situation will continue.

The Government created the centralised Integrated Attendance Service last year to reduce truancy, replacing a previous model in which 153 truancy officers were contracted.

In March last year, several Tararua schools were dissatisfied with service levels after a contract for Hawke's Bay and Wairarapa, including Tararua schools, was awarded to Hastings-based Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga.

Dannevirke High School principal Dawid de Villiers said yesterday the situation had improved, although he thought the area was "way too big" for a single truancy officer.

"We need that to be split in half at least and get another truancy officer here," he said. "But we have had some really good meetings with the service provider and that relationship between us and the service provider is much stronger."

Ministry of Education sector enablement and support head Katrina Casey said the ministry had a progress meeting with the service provider yesterday.

"They talked to us about the positive feedback they have been getting and also that some schools considered another attendance adviser/kaiawhina would be beneficial," she said.

"The provider has looked at this and assessed it based on volume of referrals at this time. While they acknowledge that it is a big geographical area they think they have enough staff to meet current volumes. However, they will keep a close watch on it and reconsider if there is a significant increase."

Woodville School principal Gerry McGirr agreed with Dr de Villiers.

"The truancy officer that we have covers pretty much through from Eketahuna up into the Hawke's Bay, which is a huge area. So it's not like you can ring him and he'll be there on the day very easily, but he certainly follows up with parents at home," he said.

However, he was happy with the service provided. "The man we have is very good. We'd like to see him more often sometimes, yes. Other times it's not such a worry."

Mr McGirr said the system was working well, but there was still a truancy problem with "regionally transient" students.

"Often what we see is children enrol at the school who have come from outside the area. Quite often there's a notification through the systems we have that truancy has been a problem in the past, and that trend will often continue."

Tararua College principal Glynis De Castro, who was apprehensive about service standards last year, was happy with the service.

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"We refer someone and they go visit and get the kids back to school," she said. "They're very efficient, it's certainly answered our needs."

- Manawatu Standard

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