What is the Ministry of Education’s most recent estimate of the number of primary, intermediate, and secondary school aged children under the age of 16 who are not enrolled in any school?
I am advised that the Ministry of Education’s new ENROL electronic enrolment register estimates that currently 6,334 students are potentially non-enrolled. This figure will include students who have emigrated before July this year, who may be in the process of shifting to another school, or who may have left school at age 16 without giving the school the proper notification. ENROL has been fully available only since October 2007, and without a full year of records it is not possible to say accurately just how many students are not currently enrolled.
Can the Minister confirm that that number is the largest number of non-enrolments this country has ever seen; and that although he is pretending that the issue has arisen only after the implementation of ENROL, the trend has been a disturbing one since 2000 and the number of enrolments has increased, year on year, at the rate of 8 percent each year?
No, I cannot confirm that, because for the very first time ever we have an accurate system that all schools are on and that is up to date. We have never had that before.
Why cannot the Minister confirm that, when that information comes from information supplied by his own officials, who point out that since 2000 the number of non-enrolments under this Government has grown by 8 percent each year and his Government has ignored that trend?
The member failed to listen to my earlier answer when I said that this is the first time we have ever had an accurate, up-to-date electronic system with everybody on it. Previously we had a paper-based system that was notoriously inaccurate.
Why is the Minister’s Government suddenly promising a crack down on truancy now, when it has been well aware that between 2002 and 2006 there was a 41 percent increase in the truancy rate and nothing has been done about it?
Lots has been done about it. But I remind the House again that for the first time ever we have accurate figures.
So for the member to suggest that it has got worse is simply not true.
Why does the Minister keep saying that this is the first time we have had accurate data, when information from his own officials shows that ever since 2000 the number of non-enrolments—some of those confirmed in parliamentary questions—has grown, year on year, by 8 percent and the ENROL system now shows that things are far worse than anybody ever expected, and these kids are not getting an education?
What I can say to the House—and, again, I say this is the first time ever—is that we have a completely accurate system that all schools are on, and it is instantaneous. We do not have the duplications we had with the paper system. We do not have schools failing to pass on the data properly, as we had with the paper system. We do not have a system where schools do not keep proper records, which we had with the paper system. Now we have an accurate system. We may potentially have over 6,000 children not enrolled, but that number will have to include of course students who have emigrated, students who have failed to notify a school that they have gone to work, or students whose parents are moving from one district to another. After 1 year we will be able to tell this House, and the country, exactly how many students are not enrolled. We do not want any students not enrolled, and at last we have a tool to find them.
How can the Minister stand in the House and wax lyrical about the accuracy of his system, when even if we look at just the gross numbers we know that we are talking about enough kids to fill 25 primary schools and five secondary schools—kids who have somehow fallen between the cracks and who are not getting an education?
We may or may not be talking about that number. After 1 year we will know. When we have deducted students who have emigrated, students who have moved from one district to another, and students who have gone to work and failed to notify schools, within a year we will know that. The member should be complimenting this Government on the $5.5 million we have spent—the National Government never did that—to set up a system that is accurate, up to date, and enables us to deal with the problem.