Family Holidays Don’t Represent a Truancy Problem

Family First is rubbishing a Ministry of Education report suggesting that families pulling their children out of school to take advantage of cheap flights and “piggy-back” deals are contributing to the country’s growing truancy rate.

“The suggestion is almost laughable,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ. “Most NZ’ers have always understood truancy as an “unauthorised absence”, usually without the knowledge of the parents, and on a regular basis.”

“When it is with the knowledge of the parents, it usually indicates far greater issues of family dysfunction and an increased likelihood of at-risk behaviour by both the child and the family.”

Mr McCoskrie says that to suggest that a family taking advantage of cheap flights or families attending special occasions overseas is encouraging truancy is nonsense. And a suggestion by National’s education spokeswoman Katherine Rich that the government should penalise parents who take their children out of school for family holidays is completely off the mark.

“Education happens in the family setting as well – even on holidays” says Mr McCoskrie. “Is the MP also suggesting that attendance at a funeral or tangi (often which require the absence of a child for up to a week) be illegal also?”

The Ministry of Education report correctly highlights home environment, student behaviour and culture as key contributors to the growing truancy rate (41% since 2002).

“Truancy is increasing simply because we are ignoring the continued breakdown of families, both parents working, the increase of substance abuse, poverty, and other factors contributing to family dysfunction.”

“As with the issue of child abuse, we need to tackle the actual problems of truancy – not target a functioning family who simply want to take an occasional special holiday overseas,” says Mr McCoskrie.