HELP! My Kid Won’t Go To School

Are you finding it a challenge to get your child to go to school? You’re not alone. The Ministry of Education shares why it’s important for your children to regularly attend school, and what you can do to encourage them.

Regular attendance has been languishing since 2015. The Ministry of Education measures regular attendance as being at school for at least 90% of the time. So a child who misses less than one week of school time across a term is said to attend regularly. On the flip side, a child who misses three weeks or more across a term is classed as “chronically absent”.

A common misconception is that children who are not regularly showing up are therefore “truant”, but in reality not all types of absence are considered equal. A justified absence is within the school’s policy as an acceptable reason for the student to be away, such as illness, or attending a tangi or funeral. An unjustified absence is unexplained, or the explanation is not acceptable within the school’s policy, such as going on holiday during term-time. Justified absence levels have increased in recent years, largely due to illness and COVID-19.


Research shows that attending school is a critical step in children’s wellbeing, learning, and development. For example, there is a direct correlation between attendance and NCEA achievement, and attendance and wellbeing. What’s more, regular attendance can set students up for life in terms of career options, a sense of purpose, and belonging and lifelong friendships.


But we also know that there are many reasons it can be a struggle to get children to go. The increasing cost of living places extra pressures on many Kiwi families, sometimes forcing school down the priority list. And research has shown that many parents are worried about bullying and racism, along with concerns that their child’s learning support, wellbeing, and mental health needs are not being adequately met.


The short answer is: We all are. Parents, whānau and communities, schools, and Government agencies all have their part to play in making sure children attend school regularly and engage in learning. But parents and caregivers play the most important role in helping children prioritise and regularly attend school.

Plus, it’s the law. In Aotearoa, all children under 16 years of age are required to attend a registered school every day, unless they have a justified reason to not be at school, or have a homeschooling or early leaving exemption granted under the Act. The Education and Training Act 2020 makes parents and caregivers of school children responsible for ensuring their children attend school.

What can I do to make sure my child is going to school?

Legal obligations aside, we all understand that it can sometimes be a challenge to get children to school. The All in for Learning website,, has a section offering tips for parents and caregivers relating to some common queries and issues. To make school a priority, here are some things you can do:

  • 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 for school – have they have done their homework, packed their lunch, sorted their uniform and PE gear?
  • Have a consistent morning routine, so it’s not too rushed and they have time to get everything they need.
  • Don’t let them have the day off just because they would rather be at home.
  • Don’t keep them at home when you know that they are just nervous about school – talk to your child and talk the school about how they are feeling.
  • Check in regularly with your child. Listen to what they are telling you or not telling you – this may make it easier to pick up on any worries they have.
  • Keep family holidays outside of term time. Every day at school is an opportunity to build their knowledge and skills, and repetition is critical for learning – especially for primary school children.
  • Don’t overload them – school may be exhausting for some children, so make sure they have some downtime after school to relax and have a break.
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