Making sure your child attends school every day
Going to school every day is really important if children are to achieve and succeed. As parents and carers, it's up to you to make sure your child attends school every day, from when they first start school until they are 16.
- Does my child have to go to school every day?
- Why do they need to go every day?
- What about my five-year-old?
- What if my child needs to be away from school?
- Can I take my child out of school during term time to go on holiday?
- What if my child is often off school sick?
- Does my child have to attend religious teaching or sex education at school?
- What can I do if my child refuses to go to school?
Yes, your child must go to school every day. Under the Education and Training Act 2020, parents and carers of school children up to 16 years old can be prosecuted if their child is away from school without a good reason.
Going to school every day really is the key to getting the best out of school because:
- it sets up good habits for going to school right from day one
- learning to read, write and do maths takes a lot of practice and is easier to master if your child goes to school regularly
- each day is a chance to learn something new
- school offers your child regular, dedicated help to master the many skills they need
- it teaches your child life skills like commitment, being reliable, having a good work ethic and sticking with things when they get hard.
Even though you don’t legally have to enrol your child at school until they turn six, most children in New Zealand start school when they are five.
Once your child has started school they need to attend every day. School used to be compulsory from age six, but the law changed in July 2017, and now children need to attend every day from when they first start school.
If your child is going to be away from school for any reason you should always follow the school’s process to let them know. They need to know the reason that your child is away and that they are safe.
Your child should go to school every day. But sometimes they might need to be away from school because they are too sick to attend, have an appointment or need to be at a tangi or funeral.
If your child is going to be away from school you should let the school know as soon as possible. Check what your school’s process is for letting them know about absences. You will need to let them know that your child will be away, why and for how long.
Your child’s safety and wellbeing is a priority for the school. If your child doesn’t turn up to school they will be concerned for their safety. If the school doesn’t hear from you, they will get in touch with you to make sure your child is okay.
If your child is going to be away for several days, talk to their teacher about getting some work to do while they are away, so that they don’t fall behind in class.
No, a holiday is not a good enough reason to take your child out of school, so holidays should be planned outside of term time.
Events like a birthday or a special day’s shopping aren’t considered valid reasons for being away from school either.
If your child misses a lot of school because of a serious illness you may be able to get help from a regional health school.
There are three regional health schools, based in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Together they service the whole country, including remote areas. The teachers can work with children both at home and in hospital.
You can contact them directly:
Northern Health School
Phone 0800 153 002
Central Regional Health School
Phone 0800 153 000
Southern Regional Health School
Phone 03 366 6739
No, these are times when your child doesn't have to legally attend lessons – you can ask for your child to be exempt from religious teaching or sex education lessons.
The key here is to make school the priority. There are things you can do at home, and things you can work side by side with the school on.
- talk to your children about why it is important to go to school every day – ask them what they want to be in the future. Their education is the key to doing well in life
- be positive about school
- set good habits about going to school from day one
- prepare your children the night before school - make sure they have done their homework
- have a good morning routine that gets them to school on time, relaxed and with everything they need
- don't let them have the day off just because they would rather be at home
- keep absences due to sickness to times when your child is actually sick - don't keep them at home when you know that they are just nervous about school – talk to the school who can help your child overcome this
- know about your child's school life – ask questions, listen to your child. This will make it easier to pick up on any issues they might be having
- keep family holidays outside of term-time, as every day at school is an opportunity to build skills, and repetition is critical for learning – especially for primary school children
- don’t overload them – school may be exhausting for your child so make sure they have some downtime after school to relax and have a break.
Working with the school
- build a strong relationship with the school and teachers to improve communication – it’s easier to talk to them if a problem arises
- get involved with the school – volunteer for parent help, go on school trips, help out on the PTA. It helps you to get to know the teacher and the school, and it shows your child that you prioritise their schooling
- learn your school’s process for letting them know about absences, and contact them as soon as you know your child is not going to be at school that day
- talk to the teacher or principal if your child is reluctant to go to school, and work together to problem solve.
This can be really upsetting. Talk to your child about why they don’t want to go. Be supportive. There may be a reason, like:
- not getting on with some of the other children
- feeling too much pressure in their learning
- a health issue, like wetting their pants
- a problem with their teacher or other staff member.
Talk to your child’s teacher or principal straight away. Whatever the reason, you won’t be the first parent to talk to the school about that type of situation. Your school will have some good advice, and you’ll be able to work together to help your child.
If you have a really serious concern about a teacher or other staff member, or suspect your child is in danger you can contact the Ministry of Education, the New Zealand Education Council or the New Zealand Police.
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