What are the reasons for absenteeism in secondary education in New Zealand/Aotearoa? A systematic review of the qualitative literature using student voice research


  • Anna Richards Massey University
  • Kayleen Clark-Howard Massey




Absenteeism, student voice, relationships, secondary education


In New Zealand/Aotearoa, high levels of secondary school absenteeism are a nationwide problem. Absenteeism is associated with a range of adverse outcomes for individuals and has detrimental effects on society. Since the global COVID-19 pandemic, with the government closing schools during lockdowns, absenteeism has reached epidemic proportions as students have failed to return to school. Despite the considerable concerns around absenteeism, there remains a significant gap in the research literature regarding the circumstances that influence students’ decisions not to attend school. This systematic literature review of qualitative research conducted in Aotearoa through student voice examines adolescents’ reasons for being absent from school. The review found that many underlying factors influence absenteeism, including teacher/student relationships, the school environment, peer relationships, curriculum and pedagogy, and family and personal well-being. This review found that the most critical theme that influenced student non-attendance at school is relationships. These findings indicate that relational pedagogies and restorative practices in schools, which serve to support and sustain student relationships with their teachers and peers, could reduce absenteeism.


Author Biographies

  • Anna Richards, Massey University

    Anna Richards is a school counsellor who works with adolescents. She recently completed a Master of Counselling Studies through Massey University. Further, she has a Postgraduate Diploma in Counselling and Guidance and a BSc (Hons) in Psychology. The author was inspired by the secondary school students she works with, to focus her Master’s research on absenteeism. Prior to her research, she worked in the health and disability sector in various roles, including supporting self-advocacy and promoting total communication for people with intellectual disabilities. She is passionate about supporting those most marginalised in society to have a voice to affect systems change in service delivery and development across the health and disability and education sectors.


  • Kayleen Clark-Howard, Massey

    Kayleen is a Lecturer at Massey University, Institute of Education, based on the Albany campus in Auckland. Prior to joining Massey University, she worked as a teacher, Special Education Needs Coordinator (SENCO) and Learning Support Coordinator (LSC) in various secondary schools in Aotearoa-New Zealand. Her Master of Education (Inclusive Education) explored New Zealand secondary school teachers' understanding of inclusion and how this understanding influences their practice. She is currently working on her PhD which aims to reimagine human development within an inclusive paradigm. Passionate about inclusion and inclusive education, where a human rights approach informs her understanding, she aims to promote inclusive education philosophies, aligning her research with the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Goal 4, which aims towards global, inclusive, equitable, quality education and lifelong learning for all.







Vol 24 Iss 2

How to Cite

What are the reasons for absenteeism in secondary education in New Zealand/Aotearoa? A systematic review of the qualitative literature using student voice research. (2023). Kairaranga, 24(2), 73-94. https://doi.org/10.54322/3w9hk758