The government's promise to crack down on truants and convict their parents has fallen flat, with just a few convictions in the past two years.
The revelation comes as a poll shows the public supports stiffer penalties for parents.
Labour says the Government's attempt to tackle truancy by throwing millions of dollars at the issue has failed.
The Ministry of Education funded the prosecutions of just 15 parents of truant children last year, despite 29,000 students being absent on any given day.
A further eight parents were prosecuted for failing to even enrol their children.
Figures released under the Official Information Act reveal 2300 children are missing from the school system through long-term truancy or failing to enrol.
The number of "missing" students remains unchanged since 2010, when the Government poured millions of dollars into getting children back in class.
At the time, then Education Minister Anne Tolley slammed Labour for failing to address the issue, and promised the Government would "get tough on truancy".
Now Labour Education spokeswoman Nanaia Mahuta says Tolley has failed. "Prosecuting parents has clearly not been an initiative that has had high-value return. You need to work with the community, and parents, to keep their children at school."
In March 2010 the Government announced an extra $150,000 to help schools prosecute the parents of truants. But only $6000 was actually spent that year on six prosecutions.
In comparison, almost 12,000 British parents of truants were prosecuted and 25 were imprisoned in 2010.
Uncertainty also surrounds the exact prosecution figure because the Ministry of Education counts only the prosecutions where funding was provided.
Meanwhile, the Government's extra $4m annually to fight truancy, and a one-off payment of $1.5m to get long-term truants back to school, has barely made a dent.
The unexplained absence rate actually increased, or remained the same, in nine of 16 regions over the past two years.
The public wants more parents to be held accountable.
A Sunday Star-Times reader poll showed 70 per cent of respondents backed more prosecutions of parents.
One respondent, a teacher, said parents came up with all sorts of excuses for their child missing class, including hot weather and family birthdays.
"I am constantly appalled by the slack attitude of so many parents.
"This cuts into my time as an effective teacher. And then there is the cost to the school of a huge number of mobile calls."
The Star-Times highlighted the truancy issue this month, revealing that 29,000 children – equivalent to the population of Blenheim – were missing from school each day.
At the time, Secondary Principals' Association president Patrick Walsh blamed parents who were encouraging children as young as eight to skip classes. Rather than sitting in class, the children were babysitting siblings and doing the housework, he said.
Education Minister Hekia Parata has said communities must take more responsibility for solving the problem, but declined to comment on prosecution statistics.
Post Primary Teachers' Association president Robin Duff said the ministry, rather than schools, had to be responsible for prosecuting parents.
FACTS AND FAILURES
There were 2301 long-term truants or non-enrolled students in the 2010/2011 financial year, similar to the previous year, when an estimated 2000 to 2500 children and teenagers were absent. Of the $150,000 allocated to prosecuting parents of truant children in 2010, just $6000 was spent. The number of students bunking on any given day fell from 30,000 to 29,000 between 2009 and 2011. The unjustified absence rate either remained the same or increased in nine of the 16 regions between 2009 and 2011. The truancy rate increased for half of the country's 73 districts in the last two years. In Kawerau the rate leapt from 7.9 per cent to 10.3 per cent, more than double the national average of 4 per cent.
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