A Northland social services provider is working directly with families to combat high truancy rates in the region.
Nationally, 29,000 students are truant from school on any given day, which translates to an overall rate of 4 per cent.
Rates for Northland dwarf this, with the Far North, Whangarei and Kaipara scoring 7, 5.2 and 5 per cent respectively.
Liz Marsden, manager of Ngapuhi Iwi Social Services, said many students who had truancy issues needed help at home.
"We needed to find out what was happening as often students would come back to us again and again," Ms Marsden said. "Sometimes kids are away for simple reasons like being kept home to look after younger ones."
A Wairarapa school has announced legal action against parents who failed to ensure their child attended school for two and a half years. Greytown's Kuranui College said that after considerable effort to address the student's "significant non-attendance issues", prosecution was the only option.
Ms Marsden said truant students were assigned a social worker who visited them at home.
The family focused approach, implemented in 16 schools this year, was working relatively well.
In 2011, a biennial school attendance survey found Northland had some of the country's worst truancy rates.
The Secondary Principals' Association warned that regular truants were more likely to become criminals.
"If they're absent for a long period, they're missing out on their education," association president Patrick Walsh said.
"They're less likely to complete level two NCEA, and therefore not get a job, or lead on to an apprenticeship or work."
Truancy had wide-ranging ramifications for society and the problem needed greater focus, Mr Walsh said.
"Those students [regular truants] are the ones who go on to adulthood with a whole range of other socio-economic disadvantages, which then cost them and the taxpayer a lot of money.
"And those students are the ones who tend to get into criminal offending."
Under the Education Act, schools can prosecute parents if they fail to ensure children attend school regularly between the ages of 6 and 16.
Prosecutions must be approved by the Education Ministry, which can also prosecute parents if a child aged 6-16 has not been enrolled in school.
However, prosecutions are a last resort and happen only after numerous family, youth and anti-truancy agencies have been consulted.
Only four truancy prosecutions have been taken by schools this year. In 2011, there were 15 cases.
Three non-enrolment prosecution cases have occurred this year, compared to eight in 2011.
Bay of Plenty town Kawerau and South Wairarapa are the country's truancy hotspots, with rates of 10 per cent and 9.9 per cent respectively, the school data showed.
At 0.3 per cent, schools in the South Island town of Waimate had the country's lowest truancy rate.