Police and the business community in Hastings say they have noticed more teenagers hanging around the streets during class time, and Frimley School principal Malcolm Dixon said increased truancy was to blame.
"Because the truancy service isn't effective, these kids are out roaming the streets and causing trouble. We had good, reliable people before, but now they expect the school to do a lot of the spadework for them."
The IAS combines the former Non-Enrolled Truancy Service and the District Truancy Service. In some regions, staff were retained by the integrated service, but in others new contractors took over from the beginning of this year.
According to the Ministry of Education website, the service takes the best from the former service and would help to achieve consistent, effective practice across New Zealand.
There were six key performance indicators for the service and, in most districts across the country, the majority of them were not being met.
Information obtained through the Official Information Act shows schools are waiting weeks for truancy officers to deal with referred students. In the first quarter this year, only 37 per cent of unjustified absence referrals were resolved within 10 days - the ministry's target is 90 per cent.
Post Primary Teachers' Association president Angela Roberts said the goal was to have all non-enrolled referrals assigned to a case manager within three days, but the current median was only 63 per cent.
"While recognising that this was the first quarter of the contract, the Ministry of Education increased its investment from $5.8 million to $9 million [in the 2012/2013 Budget] for this service, and schools should be able to expect continuity and improvement, rather than a step backwards."
Porirua College principal Susanne Jungersen said the school previously managed the truancy service for the area and had a social worker and youth worker on site. "Now we have a truancy person who isn't based at the school and the time lapse between them reporting back to us is unacceptable."
Truancy officers used to work with families to develop plans to get children back to school, but that had stopped and had turned into a "reporting system".
"Instead of working with the family, the officer now speaks to the parents and then, after a long period, comes back to the school and reports back verbatim what the parents said. That won't do anything to change why the students aren't coming to school."
As a result, truancy rates were high this year and NCEA results would be affected, she said. "It's crucial that we have a good service that can help bridge issues with affected families."
Whangarei Boys' High School headmaster Al Kirk wrote to the ministry in May voicing concerns about the huge Government contribution to a system that "has nothing to show for it".
Teachers were spending unnecessary time trying to get students who had been truant back up to speed, and diligent students were having to put up with disruption in the classroom, he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News