Under the skin of truancy in Aotearoa (New Zealand): A grounded theory study of young people’s perspectives
Truancy is a longstanding, unresolved educational issue in countries where there are compulsory attendance policies. Taking time out from class without permission is illegal and negatively influences future functioning for students who truant in regards to employment, family and community. Truancy represents a long-term cost to society in expenditure on health, well-being and incarceration. Previous research has focused on key demographic variables related to truancy, causal factors, and a variety of viewpoints. However, there has been a paucity of evidence about truancy from student perspectives. Therefore, the purpose of this research was twofold; (1) to investigate how secondary school students who truant constructed meaning about their experiences, and (2) to develop a substantive theory that identified how participants constructed the processes involved in truanting. This thesis used a grounded theory approach, concurrently gathering and analysing data generated through interviews with 13 young people from three schools and an activity centre. Students in the study referred to truanting as wagging. In respect of this, the study presents a process theory of wagging which identifies four stages: Wagging-in-class; leaving; awakening, and reincluding. The study contributes to truancy scholarship in several ways, which include the experiences and challenges occurring in class and in their personal lives that contribute to youth truanting; how youth reposition themselves when they truant; the nature of their interactions and the group they truant with; what causes them to realise there is no future value in truanting; the conditions that support them to reintegrate in class after truanting; and why they are able to return and attend school regularly after truanting. Further findings indicate that teacher intentional behaviours and student willingness to change are necessary to support the further development of inclusive practices in schools required to address truancy. The recommendations made for school leaders, teachers, counsellors, teacher educators and policy makers include four suggestions: (1) building teacher-student rapport, links with whānau, and school connectedness; (2) more proactive, sustained and consistent monitoring of student attendance; (3) reviewing school systems to foster inclusiveness and student attendance; and (4) providing a strong focus on inclusiveness within teacher education and professional development programmes. Future research and development opportunities are also identified, for example, the design of an ethnodrama to disseminate the results of this study and to heighten awareness of the dangers of wagging to students and the community. The intention is also to research the audience reactions and responses to the ethnodrama. This thesis also draws attention to the need for further studies to replicate the design features of the present study in other contexts so as to confirm, modify, extend or challenge the process theory of wagging that has emerged from this research.