Former Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett says Government's new education policy 'ill-thought-out', won't make difference for marginalised children

  • 04/03/2023

Former National Party Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett says the Government's new education package feels as though it won't make a big difference in boosting school attendance for New Zealand's most marginalised children.

In February, the Government announced a $74 million package to tackle truancy including adding 82 new attendance officers.

Education Minister Jan Tinetti said the officers will work with schools on the "moderate" group of absentees so they don't fall into the chronic group. They will be directly responsible for helping schools develop their strategies and may work directly with families if a school wants them to.

While appearing on Newshub Nation's political panel on Saturday, Bennett said the policy feels like it was "ill-thought-out".

"It… just isn't going to make the biggest difference for those most marginalised children," Bennett told Rebecca Wright.

She said it felt like the attendance officers were for the parents who are taking their children out of school for a family holiday, rather than the kids we should be most concerned about.

Former Auckland Mayoral candidate Efeso Collins told the panel the resources should be committed to youth and social workers in the community.

"I am really troubled by the idea that the [attendance officers] 'may' work with families - they 'have' to work with families," Collins said.

"If we don't work with the entire family, no one is getting support."

Collins would also like to see higher attendance targets from the ministry and said an alarm should be going off when a child drops to 90 percent.

"We shouldn't be getting to 70 percent and then alarm bells are raised publicly because that seems to be the standard," he said.

Bennett said while support is needed for families, sometimes we need to be "bloody-minded" about getting students to school.

"Let's just get these kids to school where it's safe, they can learn [and] we can really give them that kind of support there as well."

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