David Seymour pledges not to fine parents of truant kids if they can't afford it

The Associate Education Minister is pledging not to fine parents of truant kids if the family can't afford it.

David Seymour campaigned on spot fines for school absenteeism and is now in charge of the Attendance Action Plan - which features on the Government's new to-do list for the next three months.

And while fines are likely, he said they'll only be targeted at higher-income earners.

After flooring it through his 100-day list, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has announced a new 36-point plan to be delivered over the next three months.

The plan includes many easy tickables such as taking decisions on work they've already begun, like the transport plan and disestablishing mega polytech Te Pūkenga.

But there's one particular bullet point that could come at a hefty cost to parents - the Government is launching an attendance action plan.

"There'll be definitely a part of that that calls parents to responsibility," Luxon said.

David Seymour has been tasked with tackling the truancy crisis. He campaigned last year on spot fines for parents whose kids don't attend school regularly.

The public is unconvinced that's necessary.

"There must be other methods of helping the kids," one person told Newshub.

"The parents might have been trying really hard and the child's just truant," another suggested.

Labour says don't do it - the evidence says no.

"It has been tried here in New Zealand... it has never worked," its education spokesperson Jan Tinetti told Newshub.

Parents can currently be fined, but only if there's a police prosecution. Seymour's election proposal was to allow the Ministry of Education to introduce its own fines system.

Now he's pledging he will not impose fines on people who can't pay them.

"What I can say is that we're going to make sure any fining is not designed to make a situation worse," he told Newshub.

As for those who can afford it though - watch your wallets. 

"It's designed to send a message when people have had every chance, have the ability to pay and still won't play ball - then I think it actually can be acceptable to send a message and say 'no, our community standard is education matters'," he said.

Newshub understands the truancy plan is set to be unveiled within the next few weeks.

Jenna Lynch Analysis

Fining parents is nice and easy to bang a drum about on an election campaign - but the drivers of that truancy range from kids having to take a job to support their family to kids taking four weeks off on a European holiday.

It's now that end of town he wants the fines message to get to - he recognises there is no point fining parents who can't pay, it will just alienate those children from the education system further.

It sounds as though proper data collection is going to play a massive role - the public only gets quite dated quarterly reports on truancy at the moment.

Seymour was quite fixated on daily reporting of attendance - the 'what you can measure you can manage' approach and taking lessons from schools that have managed to turn their truancy problems around.

The other factor that Seymour believes has played into where we are today is COVID-19 - the public health messaging around 'stay home if you're sick'.

Seymour's view that the balance of health and education fell out of kilter there, so expect the Government to start some very different public health advice around what level of sickness