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Absent students told being in the classroom counts

Students are coming back to school, but progress is slow-going, and the number of absences has principals concerned.
Lakeview School principal Tim Nelson said this year was the worst for absences since 2020, with almost half the students away at one point.
“Between the end of Term 1 and start of Term 2 we had about 40 per cent of students away.
“We saw St Patrick’s close and we thought ‘are we going to be next?’”
He said the school was lucky to have a dedicated team of relief teachers. Despite many staff off sick, and “a lot of juggling around”, students were kept within their indicates.
Nelson said although attendance levels were improving, the number of absences was still higher than ideal, and concerning.
“For some families, it’s become normal to keep their kids home because they are worried about catching covid.”
He said he understood lowering the standards for students who had their education disrupted, but was worried about the long-term consequences.
“Ultimately, let’s say you’re training as a pastry chef, and then miss a month of your training, then you’re not going to be as qualified because you missed that month.”
He said Wairarapa was lacking a truancy officer.
“We had one for the entire region up until a few months ago.
“The ministry has an advertising campaign for truancy, but I doubt it’s getting to the right people. Sometimes you just need someone to knock on doors.
“If they’re not at school they’re not learning.”
He said teachers were getting through the curriculum but were having to backtrack regularly for students who were away.
“They’re not getting the same rounded learning, and not able to cater to that kid’s learning.”
Wairarapa College principal Matt White said it had been a challenging year, but the school had managed to avoid closing and hybrid learning.
“It feels like the end of term but we still have four weeks to go. The staff are tired. With different students away each day there is a lack of continuity in their learning.”
He said Term 1 attendance was better than most schools, but said the flu still had an impact and bit into the relief teacher budget.
White said NZQA reinstating learning recognition credits provided a good safety net for kids struggling to keep up.
He said the school currently had no staff off sick, but there was still a worrying number of students away.
“The students have been told that every second in the classroom counts.”

Helen Holt
Helen Holt
Helen Holt is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age and enjoys reporting on a variety of topics, regularly covering Wairarapa events, tourism, local businesses, and the occasional health story.

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