Supporting whanau to overcome barriers which may prevent their tamariki from attending kura has been the focus of a successful pilot coordinated by Whanau Oranga.
And now the programme has been extended beyond the boundaries of the Ngati Porou rohe.The Tairawhiti School Attendance Service (TSAS) began its initial eighteen month run in June 2011. Eight host schools spread across the East Coast/ Gisborne region provided a base for TSAS kaimahi to support the families of students who have been identified as demonstrating unjustified absenteeism
Josie Tangaere from the Whanau Oranga service co-manages the TSAS team, alongside Albie Gibson from Te Runanga o Turanganui A Kiwa. Josie says their staff have an intimate knowledge of the communities of where they are based.
“Although many of the smaller schools have a good handle on dealing with absentee issues, it is amongst the larger schools where we find they sometimes don’t know how to get in contact with the parents or caregivers. Our staff however know where the tamariki live or who to ask where to find them.”
The role of the TSAS kaimahi involves working with whanau to overcome any attendance issues they may be experiencing, and to also help strengthen relationships with the school. Josie says, “We try to encourage the whanau to let the school know what it is happening with their tamariki, and when they will return. For some whanau who rely on the help of their older children while there is seasonable work available, we ask them to inform the school of their whereabouts and when they will be going back.”
Statistics have revealed the Gisborne/ East Coast region have the highest student non-attendance rates in the country, with the majority of the students being Maori. And because of the Iwi population living in the region, many are Ngati Porou. But results from the pilot programme, which targets both Maori and non-Maori, have shown a 90% success rate in returning unjustified absence referrals.
Due to this achievement the programme recently began a new three year contact, with the catchment area extending to Opotiki and Wairoa. Whanau Oranga will be collaborating with the Mana Whenua groups of these regions to administer the programme, adding to the partnership already in place with Turanganui a Kiwa.
Josie credits the involvement of local organisations and government agencies with contributing to the success of the programme. She also believes the TSAS programme provides one avenue of helping to lift the levels of achievement amongst rangatahi in the area. “The longer students are out of the environment of learning, the harder it is to get them back into it. If we can assist rangatahi to go back to school to study or enrol in a sports or trade academy, we are also helping them to find opportunities where they have the potential to succeed.”