Truancy: ACT leader David Seymour backs Christopher Luxon's comments on principals amid criticism

David Seymour is supporting Christopher Luxon's opinion some principals are to blame, in part, for the truancy crisis. 

Speaking to AM on Wednesday, National Party leader Luxon said some of the blame should fall on school leaders who weren't doing a good enough job getting children in class. 

Luxon's comments came after Newshub revealed last week just 40 percent of New Zealand children were attending school regularly, according to fresh Ministry of Education figures. 

ACT Party leader David Seymour agreed with Luxon's remarks, telling AM Early some principals were "hopeless".

"I think he's absolutely right. As the Member of Parliament for Epsom, I visit all of the principals in our area about once a year and there are some fantastic people up against some real challenges," he explained to host Oriini Kaipara.

Seymour pointed to comments made in July by Waitākere Area Principals Association president Tony Biddick, who told RNZ: "We know they're here, we know they're perhaps sometimes skateboarding past the school even, or they've disappeared off our radar but we know they're going to be coming back."

"There's a prinicpal who actually openly admits he sees truant kids skateboarding past his school and doesn't do anything about it because, 'They'll come back sometime,'" Seymour said.

"Yep, there are some fantastic principals and there are some absolutely hopeless ones and unfortunately, if you're a kid, you don't get much choice and that's why we need to lift the quality of school leadership across the country along with a number of other changes," he added.

To improve the education sector and help address truancy, Seymour believed New Zealand needed to start paying "good teachers" more money. ACT has proposed giving principals the ability to reward high-performing teachers with thousands of dollars for their efforts through a $250 million "teaching excellence fund". 

Seymour said ACT would give all schools an equal amount of money through the fund, based on the number of teachers they had.

But Seymour admitted the fund could result in bias, saying that was where principals would need to improve as managers.

"There's always a risk, in any workplace, that you've got a manager that doesn't do well and, as I've mentioned, there are some principals that aren't doing very well - we need to improve them too," he said.

Meanwhile, Luxon was asked by AM on Wednesday morning how his party would fix the truancy crisis.

"The first thing is we've got to make sure [the] Government is actually putting resources into truancy officers - getting kids to school," Luxon said.

"We need to make sure that we've actually got leadership in schools that are actually very much focused on getting kids into school."

Luxon's comments on principals came under fire from some in the education sector but the National Party leader wouldn't apologise on Wednesday afternoon.