Some Auckland schools are battling virtual truancy, with more than 50 per cent of students dropping off the radar as they head back into online classes on Monday.
For hundreds of thousands of students in Auckland next week sees them heading into week 10 of lockdown and strict Covid-19 restrictions – with no face-to-face classes, and no firm date for a return.
Jean Batten School in Māngere East has about 400 primary students and principal Nardi Leonard told Checkpoint a good day for attendance rates in lockdown was about “mid to low 40 (per cent) engaging online”.
“It’s not just about not having a device, or you know not having access to wifi. There are numerous reasons why we’re just not able to get through so.”
Leonard said it was important people understood families did want to engage.
“It’s not passive resistance, and it’s certainly not putting your foot down and saying we don’t want to engage, they do want to engage.
“However, two key things in our recent study that we’ve done for our school. The first one is no access to wifi, so the interaction [we] have been having is via data and we know how expensive data is … so that’s one.
“The second one that’s facing our families is when you have multiple children – and in my school the average would be three children, three and more – so most of those families will only have one device.
“Now, the access to that device will always go to the eldest child, as it should, we know it should, especially if they’re in high school because they’re doing the NCEA that means everyone down the pecking order has a limited amount of time, and it gets less and less as you’re getting younger …
“We do have good engagement in zoom sessions … we find that our children are coming in, they’re being visible, they love that contact. In fact, I think they thrive on that contact.
“But once they’re off the Zoom, they don’t have the access to, then do the work.”
Leonard said the school had learned a lot from “lockdown to lockdown”.
“What we have found in this particular lockdown going into it, although families said they had access to wifi, they still asked for a hard pack (copy of material), and that was probably more because of the parents … they want those hard packs so they can help their children work.
“The challenge is how do we monitor that as teachers … we really just try everything and anything and at the end of the day, we have to trust that our parents were there monitoring and we just do what we have to do.”
Some families had dropped of the radar, and that was sad, Leonard said.
“During lockdown, you know, we’re not surprised that we’re not having good contact with a certain group. But we have found in this lockdown in particular because of the length of it, we have found that group is growing, and they’re starting to drop off.”
Leonard said there were other challenges within her community that may be contributing.
“You know, sometimes is reading and writing as important as having food on your table, a safe place? A warm place? … What we worry about for our school is if you’re not in a good space in your head and in your heart, then how can you read and write?
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