No Minister

Truancy – A Personal Experience

with 10 comments

In early November 2018 mrspdm and I retrieved our then 13 (almost 14) year old grandson from his mother and maternal grandmothers home at his request. This followed an irretrievable relationship breakdown when his mother did the dirty on our son and their three children for at least the fourth time that we were aware of. Us picking up our grandson and bringing him to live with us meant that we were taking him away from his two younger sisters but the impact of that is a different story, perhaps for another post.

After the break up his father (our son) had continued his employment as a farm stock manager some 2 and a half hours away from where both we and his mother were living.

At the time our grandson was completing his third form year at a very well regarded Hawkes Bay Secondary School. We had been aware that his attendance was not as good as it should have been and that there had been attendance issues which may or may not have included intervention by Truancy Officers and apparently on one occasion Police had been called to the house – even now we do not know if this was school related or an issue caused by having two women (his mother and grandmother) trying to control him. It is pertinent that his maternal step grandfather with whom our grandson had a very good relationship based on mutual respect had died after a long illness some six months before the move to the grandmothers house.

For the remainder of the 3rd Form year he generally went to school every day but may have conned us a couple of times by saying he was unwell. Bear in mind there was only 5 or 6 weeks of the term left when he moved in with us so it was not enough to cause us concern.

The 4th form year was a different issue. Early on he just flatly refused to get out of bed and go to school and he was well aware that we could not physically make him – to the extent that by March he was having two or three days a week off school. We made contact with the school in early March and a Teacher/Councillor called at our home late one Friday – he spent about thirty minutes talking to us and then another hour and a half talking to the three of us. It seemed he made good progress and our grandson seemed happy to go to school.

Unfortunately that did not last long and after a couple of weeks we were back to square one and he flatly refused to go to school. Each day we had to phone in to advise of his absence and would just say – `he refuses to attend school please send a truancy officer’.

From recollection it took about a month before a truancy officer turned up. He talked to our grandson, to no avail and ultimately returned 5 or 6 times. But these people can only cajole they have no powers to make children attend school. In the end we got so frustrated we rang the school for an appointment with the Headmaster so that we could air our concerns. His PA obviously was there to block such meetings and it took for me to ask – `What does the headmaster do all day if he will not meet with parents or guardian who have a problem with the school? Should we contact the press?’

The above got the meeting for my wife and I and our son was also able to get through for it. We were all taken aback when early in meeting the the Headmaster said our grandson with an attendance record in the high 60’s was a low priority for the school because they had a number of students with attendance records of less than 40% and they were where their focus was. The School Councillor who had visited us earlier in the year also sat in on the meeting and was a bit more positive but we left with the view that the school was not able to or perhaps more accurately was not interested in taking any action.

Personally I thought a summons to the Head Masters office and a good old fashioned rark up might have turned the tide because apart from not attending school our grandson was a well behaved kid. In the end we muddled on got the school year finished.

2020 brought Covid and the need for online assignments to be completed and sent in. It was not long before we were receiving emails saying he was way behind on these assignments. This continued throughout the first lockdown even though we tried to establish a routine where he would do two or three hours school work every day.

He was at school the first day after lockdown and seemed to enjoy catching up with his school friends. The next day he said he had a sore throat and had to stay home as the Headmaster had said at the previous days assembly – `that anyone who was not feeling well should not attend school’. That was just a gift to our grandson.

After the second day we handed him back to his mother and her plan was he would do correspondence schooling – that never worked. He was back with us just before his 16th birthday after living with his father for a short while as well.


Soon after arriving back with us he turned 16 and soon after that we persuaded him to apply for a job at KMart. This has gone well over the two years with only a few missed days but eventually he realised he needed more than the 26 hours a week they would give him.

Just recently he took up a new job in an Orchard – starting at 7.30am and finishing at the moment at 4.30pm. Only two weeks completed to dae but he seems to be thriving, has a different personality and is focused on buying his first house as soon as he can. We are going to be setting up a savings plan to achieve this once he has a few paydays under his belt.

No NCEA hardly any secondary school attendance but at last he seems to have his head right and is focused on his future.

also meant


Written by pdm1946

December 3, 2022 at 7:54 am

Posted in New Zealand

10 Responses

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  1. If this happens with family who care, it must be so much worse when no-one cares. I know of a similar example from years ago. His parents got permission for him to leave school at 14 when leaving age was 15. Once he left and got work he thrived. Some teens don’t fit school and I think it’s probably worse for boys now the education curriculum seems to better suit girls.


    December 3, 2022 at 8:36 am

  2. Interesting PDM.

    What were his reasons for not going to school??


    December 3, 2022 at 8:53 am

    • Not interested probably sums it up best.


      December 3, 2022 at 10:08 am

  3. Tough situation with about the best result likely having been achieved. I think you (and he) have done ok. As you say, he’s got his head screwed on right, and there’s a few much better educated, “successful” humans I’ve known of whom that could not be said.

    I also agree with Elle above. Some kids just don’t fit in school and that has always been the case, irrespective of the school and/or the standard of education of the day – and it especially applies to boys, some of whom just have an almost psychological aversion to “paperwork”.

    Tom Hunter

    December 3, 2022 at 8:56 am

    • Tom I think we were lucky that he is/was `a good kid’ – no booze no drugs and did not hang around the streets with problem kids. Computer gaming was his main hobby then so he stayed home.

      Now he is just venturing out `on the town with his mates’. He won’t read this but my mates and I doing that before we were 17 plus hooning around in cars as we all had our licence at 15. He still cannot drive but is now starting to show some interest in that.


      December 3, 2022 at 10:15 am

      • The gaming can be an issue but it sounds like he’s past that too. I’ve got two mates who both had sons with terrible gaming addiction problems in their teens – like waking at 1am and sneaking onto the computer for hours of “fun”. Really fucked up their school lives and their lives in general.

        One at least seems to have escaped, starting with Maccas, while the other is still in the Macca’s environment but only to earn enough cash to crash back to the parents home for beer, getting drunk, and gaming. It’s bloody sad to see for a bright kid – and he’s one who finished high school with NCEA3.

        Tom Hunter

        December 3, 2022 at 10:26 am

  4. I have a nephew who grew up on a remote farm. He is very ‘hands on’ and was the sort of kid that you brought power tools for his birthday, rather than an Xbox. He didn’t like school and thought it was just a bunch of angry kids. He got offered an apprenticeship when he was 14, but the school refused to let him leave. Eventually, the school was fobbed off, and he got the job. School isn’t for everyone, and doesn’t necessarily set you up for life, or provide skills for living in the real world.


    December 3, 2022 at 9:29 am

  5. MT_Tinboy had trouble at school, to the point where he was home-schooled for most of his form III year. He still managed to achieve scores that put him in the top 10% of pupils his age.

    He did stay the distance until, at the age of 15, he had, once again, the extremely low standard of people involved in teaching demonstrated to him.

    He got a job (he had worked part-time from age 13 at KFC), left school behind and proceeded to make damned near every mistake possible outside of killing/maiming himself.

    He now earns well above the average wage, has serious seniority at his work and about four years ago put down over $100,000 as a deposit on his house.

    The experience he got from working often long, shitty hours, hard and with/for tossers has done him far more good than any two-faced, totally inept-at-life, bloody schoolteacher could have.

    pdm, with your help the young fellow has a long, happy life ahead of him


    December 3, 2022 at 11:38 am

  6. I am coming to the conclusion that mass education post-adolescence is a bad idea. There are too many stories like PDM’S, others here and my own (personally and children) to provide evidence that it’s a shining success. Many simply survive it and go on to lead good lives and are ironically, perpetually curious and learning of their own volition.

    Lindsay Mitchell

    December 4, 2022 at 7:20 am

    • Lindsay I think you summed up our grandson perfectly with your last sentence. Some of the historical and other things he comes out with astound mrspdm and I at times – he never learned them at school.


      December 4, 2022 at 7:26 am

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