New Government plan to tackle truancy leaves Opposition questioning if it's enough

The Government has announced a $74 million package to tackle truancy with dozens of new attendance officers.

However the announcement has left the Opposition asking if it is enough.

It's athletics day at Wellington East Girls' College, a sea of students decked in colour.

"Lots of students here that you can see are participating, having fun and engaging in their school," said Wellington East Girls' College principal Gael Ashworth.

Athletics day is the kind of engagement schools want to see year-round.

"The workload is really huge out there in the communities," said Marina Tamarua from Te Rūnanga o Toa Rangatira Attendance Services.

She said there definitely needs to be more attendance officers out there.

And that is exactly what the Government has announced, a $74m package for 82 new attendance officers and a boost for attendance services.

However the Minister couldn't tell AM on Tuesday morning how many officers there currently are.

"We know we've got a lot. We can't put a figure on it," said Education Minister Jan Tinetti.

What she can put a figure on is term 3 attendance data which was conveniently released on Tuesday.

"I actually saw it at the end of 2022 in December right before Christmas but it's not my data to release, it is the Ministry of Education's," she said.

It shows just 46 percent of students attended school more than 90 percent of the time in term 3, down from the previous three years when attendance was tracking upwards.

The Minister believes the statistics are not as accurate as they could be so is putting $7m towards improving data collection and analysis, helping to prevent truants from becoming statistics.

"We're talking tens of thousands of kids that we're getting to that don't slip into the chronic phase, that's what we want to stem the tide on," Tinetti said.

This has left National's education spokesperson Erica Stanford unimpressed.

"Is that it? After five years and plummeting rates of attendance, that is what we got?" Stanford asked.

Meanwhile, educators are remaining cautiously optimistic.

"The more resources we can have to help our young people return to school, the better," Ashworth said.

"This is such an important position, we want to see that security that these positions are embedded," Rowandale School principal Karl Vasau added.

"I look forward to seeing all those extra officers on the ground," said Tamarua.

And they remain optimistic because it is clear support is needed.