Massey High School principal says punishing parents of waggers is wrong approach

Shocking new stats showing nearly half of all Kiwi students aren't attending school regularly have led to demands for the parents of repeat waggers to be prosecuted.

But Massey High School principal Glen Denham told Newshub he believes poverty is a major driver of truancy and punishment is the wrong approach. 

"Our parents couldn't afford a fine," he told Newshub.

"It's not about being punitive and fining them, it's about having the resources to reach into those families and keep working with those families."

With a 94.6 percent attendance rate, most classrooms at Auckland's Massey High School don't have a spare seat in sight. But it's a far cry from the country's average.

The Ministry of Education released startling new figures that show just 58 percent of students went to school "regularly" last year compared with 64 percent in 2018 and 70 percent in 2015. 

Denham said the secret to his school's success is using dedicated staff they call "resilience coaches" to keep students and families in line.

"There's a phone call home, we make home visits all the time to work with the parents to get those students and we monitor a lot."

Earlier on Monday, the principal of Auckland Grammar School Tim O'Connor told The AM Show he wants the worst offenders to be held responsible.

"I would want to deal with those parents who are repeat offenders - and by repeat offenders I'm not saying the odd Friday or the odd early holiday, I'm talking about those parents who actually their sons or their daughters are not turning up to school on a day-by-day basis  - they need to be prosecuted," O'Connor said.

"They are actually cutting off their son or daughter's future. Full stop."

But when it comes to prosecution the Ministry of Education says right now it's the last resort and only considered when a student has been absent for a consecutive number of days, and all support options have failed.

Dr Craig Jones from the Ministry of Education told Newshub attendance declines throughout the school year.

"Some of this is discretionary, so we know that attendance is lower on Mondays and Fridays and it tends to decrease across the term to the point where 22 percent of kids were not in the class on the last day of term."