National Party leader Christopher Luxon says Covid-19 is no excuse for low school attendance rates.
It follows the latest attendance figures revealing only 40% of children went to school regularly in the second term this year
In a report released today, the office said it found that four in 10 parents were comfortable with their child missing a week or more of school per term and a third of students did not consider not that going to school every day was so important.
He revealed that families kept children at home due to illness, but also because they were tired, in poor mental health or bullied.
Speaking to the media at the Canterbury A and P Show in Christchurch today, Luxon said matching figures overseas suggested the pandemic was not to blame.
“I looked at the data for the first term, you know earlier in the year and what was obvious to me, less than half of the actual decline in school absences was due to illness,” a- he declared.
“And it’s the same here. Other countries have had Omicron, other countries have had Covid, Ireland, Canada, Australia, US, UK and they have much higher levels of regular school attendance here.
“We need a concerted effort from public schools and parents to get their children back to school.”
Luxon has not ruled out the introduction of similar legislation in the UK where parents could face fines if they let children skip school during term time.
“It takes absolutely anything and everything to get parents to face up to their responsibility,” he said.
Luxon offered to deploy “a lot of these people are sitting in the back office of ministry functions” on the front line to work with families.
Luxon on US midterms
Luxon was reluctant to monitor political developments in the United States, but said “he will work with anyone”.
President Joe Biden hailed yesterday’s US midterm elections as “a good day for democracy” as oversight of Congress hangs in the balance.
Republicans are closing in on a slim majority in the US House of Representatives, but the predicted red wave has not materialized.
When asked if the poll in general could be a false dawn, Luxon said he wasn’t sure.
“All I can tell you, as you know, I will work with anyone, you know, I don’t get involved in other countries’ elections.
“I have to work with whoever the American people elect as president and government.”
A slump in support of Labor and leader Jacinda Ardern was reported this week in the Newshub Reid Research poll.
Labor sat at a tick of over 32%, down nearly six points since its last poll in April.
As the preferred prime minister, Ardern was down around 6.5 points to just under 30%; National’s Christopher Luxon dropped a few points to 21.5%.