Missing out – why aren’t our children going to school

Going to school is critical for our children’s futures. The evidence is clear that every day of school matters – missing school leads to lower achievement. In Aotearoa New Zealand, learners are expected to attend school every day the school is open. And yet many don’t. We have lower attendance than other countries and, alarmingly, attendance is falling.

The Education Review Office report released in November 2022  on school attendance provides important insights on the school attendance of New Zealand children, and looks at attendance barriers for disabled children. 

8% of the student sample surveyed were disabled (158 students).

12% of the parent sample surveyed had a disabled child (134 parents).

Parents of disabled learners are more likely to keep their child out of school due to:

  • Resource and participation barriers
    • if their child is unable to participate in a school activity (28% vs. 15% of parents of non-disabled children)
    • if they do not have the right equipment (27% vs. 11% of parents of non-disabled children)
    • if they have difficulty transporting their child to school (17% vs. 9% of parents of non-disabled children)
  • Health and wellbeing concerns
    • if their child had a chronic illness (19% vs. 10% of parents of non-disabled children)
    • if their child had mental health challenges/anxiety (35% vs. 7% of parents of non-disabled children)
  • Bullying
    • if their child is being bullied (47% vs. 36% of parents of non-disabled children)

Disabled learners are more likely to want to miss school because:

  • they can’t participate in some activities at school e.g., sports and clubs (25% vs. 43% of non-disabled learners)
  • they don’t want to participate in certain activities at school (31% vs. 20% of non-disabled learners)
  • their schoolwork is too hard (27% vs. 11% of non-disabled learners)
  • they didn’t feel like being around their classmates (11% vs. 4% of non-disabled learners).

When their disabled child doesn’t want to go to school, parents are more likely to keep their child out of school (11% vs. 6% of parents of non-disabled children).

Disabled learners have lower engagement and connection to school and are less likely to:

  • think going to school every day is important or very important (57% vs.  68 % of non-disabled learners)
  • feel their whānau are proud when they go to school (58% vs. 68% of non-disabled learners)
  • want to go to school because they can see how school can help them in the future (4% vs. 56% of non-disabled learners)
  • want to go to school because they like or are interested in what is taught at school (27% vs. 39% of non-disabled learners)
  • feel that their school cares if they went to school (65% vs. 75% of non-disabled learners).

The report provides general recommendations for improving attendance such as:

  • schools proactively managing regular non-attendance, make learning more engaging, teaching the relevance and value of all learning, and making available catch-up material
  • parents setting expectations for school attendance and working with schools to either overcome or find other ways to deal with issues that lead to non-attendance. Parents are also expected to support their learner to catch up on missed learning.

Steps to remove barriers for learning faced by disabled children need to be a top priority in improving attendance.

Page last updated: