The Government has unveiled a new multi-million funding package designed to improve student attendance in New Zealand's schools.
In a pre-Budget announcement from Education Minister Chris Hipkins and Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti on Sunday, Hipkins said attendance rates "haven't been good for a long time".
He said it was a complex issue that had to be addressed right across government.
"There are many reasons why students disengage from learning and this has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, so we are putting measures in place to help turn that around."
The funding will include a regional response fund of $40 million over four years to meet local education needs.
"Some of what the regional response fund will be used for is ensuring pathways are there for disengaged youth alongside iwi, schools, councils and community groups and providers. It can be used to support whānau-led responses to break the cycle of disengagement, or brokering services with other agencies to ensure students have the level of support they need to stay in school. It's important and complicated work," Hipkins said.
The Government will also spend $18.9 million a "refresh and enhancement" of the Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L) programme, which has been in place since 2011. It includes $11.2 million to deliver 14 new School-Wide practitioners and $7.7 million to expand Check & Connect: Te Hononga and Te Mana Tikitiki.
Further funding from this year's Budget includes:
- $7.8 million to address cost pressures in the Incredible Years programmes, to support caregivers, whānau, and school and early childhood educators to improve young children's communication skills and emotional regulation
- $6 million to help address current Attendance Service cost pressures and allow providers to increase capacity to support schools
- $15.5 million to scale up Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu support for at-risk young people to reengage in school
Tinetti said having a curriculum that is relevant and engaging was important, which is why the Government was looking to establish a curriculum centre within Te Mahau, refresh both the New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, and launch the new Aotearoa New Zealand Histories curriculum content.
"This is a key area to help us shift student progress and achievement, by making schools and kura places where children can see their own values and identity in what they're learning."
She said there was "no silver bullet to fix school attendance rates", but the Government was trying to ensure there is support in place for students and communities where need is greatest.