Low attendance at NZ Catholic schools a pressing concern

low attendance nz catholic schools

“The ongoing issue of low attendance in NZ Catholic schools is a pressing concern” says Dr Kevin Shore, Chief Executive of the New Zealand Catholic Education Office (NZCEO).

“Student success is vital. It opens doors to life’s best opportunities and allows school graduates to contribute positively to society,” Shore told CathNews.

Acknowledging that the factors impacting state schools also affect Catholic schools, he remains optimistic that attendance numbers will improve. Shore’s comments follow an earlier statement by the head of New South Wales Catholic schools, Dallas McInerney, who warned of the potential for school attendance not to return to its pre-pandemic norm.

“Government regulations meant our students were physically isolated from their peers and teachers.

“Too many were exposed to heightened levels of health and economic unease, through the media and in their homes,” McInerney commented last week.

“There is a lasting effect on school attendance.

“We know that the workforce has not, and perhaps will not, return to pre-COVID levels of at-work attendance, and the same is true of students in NSW.”

Shore acknowledges that areas worst hit by poverty and deprivation also suffer the most from truancy, and low attendance rates could result in several adverse outcomes such as a low-skilled workforce, poor social and relationship skills, and a perpetuating cycle of poverty and deprivation.

However, he added that an advantage of being a state-integrated school is that all support provided to state schools is available for Catholic schools as well.

Shore observed that historically, pre-pandemic data showed the attendance rate in Catholic schools was about 5-6% higher.

He attributes the difference to the community-shared values and beliefs that encourage strong relationships between home and school.

Catholic schools have generally been successful in creating powerful bonds with parents.

Citing a case in Northland where community support has boosted attendance rates, he said “Successful partnerships between schools, local iwi and the use of truancy officers is a recipe that works.”

Minister of Education, Jan Tinetti, acknowledges the negative effect that Covid-19 has had on school attendance.

Facing criticism for a $1m advertising campaign that did not increase school attendance, Tinetti told the NZ Herald on Wednesday that improving school attendance is multi-faceted.

She said that the Ministry of Education is using a range of initiatives to encourage children back to school, and engaging with the broader community, such as parents and employers, is a necessary part of the solution.

Reinforcing the multi-faceted approach, Tinetti told NewstalkZB’s Mike Hosking, “Every single initiative and effort they’ve made (the Ministry of Education) is making a difference.”

Independently, Shore echoed Tinetti’s Covid comments to CathNews, saying the pandemic has introduced many ‘downstream’ complications, such as students working to support families during tough times, disruptions causing students to disengage from education and fall behind in their studies, and poverty affecting access to schooling.

Shore is encouraged by Catholic schools and their pastoral support processes that focus on human dignity and which help create respectful and inclusive environments, fostering a sense of belonging.


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