Nova Scotia’s education minister says the province’s new attendance support workers will not be forcing children to go to school.

Nova Scotia’s council to improve classroom conditions is spending $1.9 million to hire 14 attendance support workers as part of a new pilot project, but Zach Churchill says they’re not the same as truancy officers, who force students to attend school.

Instead, he says the workers will try to connect students and families with supports, such as mental health workers, where needed.

“All of these challenges can’t be dealt with simply by teachers and administrators alone, so we want to make sure kids are connected with the wide range of supports that are out there for them and their families, so that is a big component of this,” says Churchill.

The attendance support workers will be introduced in an effort to cut down on the alarming rate of absenteeism among students in the province.

The provincial government says only 33 per cent of Nova Scotia students missed fewer than five days of school last year, while 27 per cent of students missed 16 days or more.

The council says it will start work on hiring the attendance support workers right away, and they should be on the job early next year.

The council was formed earlier this year following a protracted labour dispute that saw the province impose a contract on more than 9,000 unionized teachers. Members include teachers, a student, a parent and a guidance counsellor.

The council has now spent nearly all of the $10 million it was granted for the year to help improve classroom conditions.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Sarah Ritchie