Legal responsibilities and national guidelines for schools on attendance

Schools, along with parents and guardians, are legally responsible for making sure students attend school.

School responsibilities for student attendance

Your school is responsible for the first response to any absences.

Your school must:

  • have an attendance management policy
  • communicate your attendance rules to students and their families
  • follow up on absences
  • record and monitor attendance and absence data
  • work to improve attendance.

Attendance management policies can be tailored to the needs of your school and community.

Attendance rules include:

  • being on time for school and class, and
  • information on how unexplained absences will be followed up.

Improving attendance might include working with families to help students return to school.

Legislation governing attendance

Schools (boards, principals, and individual teachers), along with parents and guardians, are responsible for making sure students attend school regularly.

Under sections 36, 48, 49 and 242 of the Education and Training Act 2020, every school board must take all reasonable steps to make sure students attend school when it's open.

Education and Training Act 2020 – NZ Legislation(external link)

Although there are some practical requirements, including maintaining a daily attendance register, it's up to your school to identify the scope of 'all reasonable steps' in your attendance policies. Your board must provide support when attendance issues arise.

Appendix 1 of Attendance Matters

Staggered transition to school

Children aged 4 and 5 who would benefit from a staggered transition to school need to have a transition plan. This will be agreed on between the:

  • child’s parents
  • school principal
  • Ministry of Education.

If a child has started school (any time before the age of 6) and if issues emerge that full-time attendance is difficult, a transition plan may be put in place. The child will be required to attend school in accordance with that plan.

Your school should use the ‘J’ (justified absence) attendance code in your electronic attendance register to record absences that align with the transition plan.

The following templates may help you to create and agree a transition plan. There is no requirement to use this template. A simple email trail showing the parents, your principal and Ministry of Education have agreed to the plan is sufficient to meet the legislative requirements.

Transition to school attendance plan template – English [DOCX, 85 KB]

Transition to school attendance plan template – Te reo Māori [DOCX, 80 KB]

Otherwise you can contact your local Ministry service manager for assistance to develop a transition plan.

Local Ministry offices

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