Why not skip school?

Dr Eric Crampton
Insights Newsletter
28 February, 2020

I skived off last Friday afternoon for the first day of the cricket test at the Basin Reserve. Relaxing on the grass there really is one of the good things. At least until the weather turned.

New Zealand took every advantage, choosing to bowl first and making steady progress through the overs.

The only thing really missing was my son (my daughter is less of a fan). Instead, he was at school. I wonder whether the cricket might have been the better choice; he would not have missed much had he joined me.

Staying in class is an increasingly unpopular choice. The Ministry of Education’s figures for the past year show that only 58% of students attended class at least 90% of the time. So, 42% of students miss at least one day of classes per fortnight. A lot of those absences fall on Mondays and Fridays.

Attendance rates have been dropping since 2015, and the number of days missed has been increasing – the biggest drops among students in years 1-8. Attendance at Intermediate schools dropped from just under 74% in 2015 to just over 60% last year.

Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin put the blame on parents, warning them to take attendance seriously.

But does it really seem likely that parents are to blame here? Has there really been a massive shift in parents’ underlying values about education? A shift big enough to explain such a large drop in attendance? Or has something changed in schools leading parents to think there is less to lose in the occasional unofficial long weekend?

I do not know the full history of my boy’s intermediate school. But I know that, this term, his class is undertaking an extensive inquiry into Kindness. The students are meant to be completing some kind of “Kindness Kalendar” (that’s calendar with a K). They got to watch a lengthy video about a person who gave up plastic for two years.

If he’d instead spent the day with me at the cricket, we could have worked on practical statistics in a rather pleasant applied environment.

When a kid wants to skip school, parents need a convincing reason why they shouldn’t. If the boy next time wanted to join me at the cricket rather than spend the day watching videos about the kindness of giving up plastic, how could I say no?

Stay in the loop: Subscribe to updates