Aug. 11, 2022, 3:33 p.m.
Northland schools launch the Let’s Get to School campaign to tackle truancy and boost regional attendance.
A campaign to encourage more students in Northland to get to school has been launched with students and principals sending a message that school is safe and important for the future of our tamariki.
The Let’s Get to School Tai Tokerau campaign, E Te Tai Tokerau - Hoake tātou ki te kura, launched today [EDS: 10/08/22] and is the result of a partnership between Northland schools and the Tai Tokerau Ministry of Education office.
Pat Newman, principal of Hora Hora Primary School in Whangārei, said schools have built some “really good relationships” with the Ministry, and the campaign was one example of what can be achieved when you “work together”.
“We’re not saying this is the magic solution, but at least we’re not sitting on our backsides doing nothing,” he said.
As part of the campaign, schools around Northland have been provided a social media kit containing graphics and messaging in both te reo Māori and English that can be used on a range of platforms including Facebook, websites, and newsletters.
The campaign name, slogan ‘For the future of our tamariki’, and key messaging have been informed by students from Kamo Primary School, Hora Hora Primary School, Tikipunga High School, and Taipa Area School.
Kamo Primary School students Trey Williams, 10, Zavier Harris, 10, Waimiringa Henare, 10, and Caysha-Laurel Parry, 10, said they loved attending school because it “sets you up for your future”.
“Some people think it might not be important to come to school and they think they can do other things on their own. But when they get older, they’ll realise that going to school is one of the most important things of your life,” Zavier said.
Ministry of Education attendance data shows Northland has had one of the highest chronic absence rates – students attending school 70 per cent or less – since 2011. But principals say dealing with attendance has become more difficult to address post-Covid.
It is hoped the Let’s Get to School campaign will spread a unified message that schools care about their students and are keen to work with whānau to get their tamariki back, for their future.
“Principals and teachers are keen to work with families to support the transition back to school that works for all,” Kathy Hancock, Kaingaroa School principal, said.
Bay of Islands International Academy principal Chris Bell said regular attendance was not only important for academic success, but for social and emotional development too.
“Our sole focus is no longer about lifting children academically but a combination of lifting their confidence as learners, alongside lifting their ability to be effective members of communities, effective collaborators and effective communicators.”
Kaitaia Primary School principal Brendon Morrissey said students missed the social interactions at school when they were away, and he wanted whānau to know the school is safe.
“We’ve got a lot of health measures in place, and we are very conscious of our students being healthy and happy every day. It is our number one focus,” he said.
Principals aren’t the only ones missing their pupils. Students are missing their mates too. Tikipunga High School students Kruz Taua-Glassie, year 12, Harmony Edmonds, year 13, and Kaian Burt, year 11, said their school felt “empty”.
“It makes the school feel lonely. When I first started our school was packed, you’d go into the gym and you could barely walk. Now there is plenty of space,” Kaian said.
Meanwhile, students Melita Faumuina, 10, Mina Karetai-Mahanga, 10, and Mauitekoha Witana, 10, from Hora Hora Primary School said they missed their friends.
“I say to them, why didn't you come to school, I missed you, it's been boring without you ever since you left,” Mina said.
Taipa Area School students Lexi Bradbury, year 11, Romy Kamariera, year 7, Alexia Wyatt, year 10 and Sahara Vercammen, year 10, said they did their best to persuade their friends to come back to school if they didn’t have a good reason for not being there.
“We tell them all the positive stuff about school – we try to get them into our sports, so they have something to commit to,” Lexi said.
Oruaiti School Principal Diane Bates urged parents struggling to get their kids to school, to reach out.
“Just talk to us. Sometimes it’s just about breaking the cycle. Bring them back and we will work with you to get them back into that routine because once they’re back into it, they’re fine,” she said.
The social media kit for Northland schools is only the beginning of the Let’s Get to School campaign.
The Ministry of Education and Northland schools will continue to work together to drive the message home that being present is important “for the future of our tamariki.”
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