A mum-of-two has penned a now-viral blog post in which she outlines the reasons why her youngest son won’t be accepting his 100% attendance award from school.
Author Rachel, who writes the blog Born at the Right Time, declared that her middle son Jonah wouldn’t be accepting the award of an evening of soft play, because she ‘doesn’t reward luck’.
‘In this family we will think of as many reasons possible to praise our children,’ she says. ‘We will celebrate and reward them, but being lucky enough not to get sick is not one of them. He’s lucky to have not developed a fever, had an accident or live with a chronic illness.’
She points out: ‘Can you imagine a work place that at the end of each week marked out all the people who hadn’t been sick? Where all the departments with the least number of people off were rewarded – in front of everyone else? It happens in schools all the time.’
‘Can you imagine what kind of atmosphere that would create with people who had days off because of bereavement, mental health problem or chronic conditions?’
‘What on earth are we teaching our kids about value and worth? What are we teaching them about looking out for each other and looking after the sick or disabled in our community?’
As a mum to a older son with severe brain damage, Rachel admits that she will be taking Jonah out of school before the end of term for a term-time holiday, so that they can afford to have their eldest cared for whilst they are away.
‘In this family we value school and work but we also know the importance of making memories and having rest,’ she reasons. ‘As much as I understand the importance of attendance, there must be a better way of helping those families and children who don’t go to school for non-genuine reasons. The messages we are sending to our kids when we reward attendance is wrong for so many reasons.’
The blog has now reached over 2.5million people, and generated a lot of discussion on Facebook, with nearly 12,000 comments.
‘My daughter has a chronic illness as well as many other health issues and has so many hospital appointments she’ll never get one of the above awards,’ says one mum. ‘Now they give the children with full attendance badges to wear too, it allows them extra privileges. She suffers enough with her health and from bullies, without the school pointing a finger of shame at her.
I couldn’t have said it better. Thank you for speaking out.’
Another said, ‘This makes me cross for what all the reasons you say and one more… *if* my kids are ill they stay off for the 48’hrs after the school requires. The school requires it, yet they lose out as they then do not hit the 100%.’
Lots of teachers, though, were keen to point out that these systems are not at the schools discretion – the rules come from legislation higher up, and school boards often disagree with the system, too.
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‘As a teacher and mother of child with poor health I applaud you for this attitude,’ says one. ‘However until attendance is removed as a measure of a school’s success, as a teacher I will be expected to promote attendance incentives, alienating some of our most vulnerable students.’
‘Can I just point out that while I admire your responses to this and agree that it is totally necessary in most of your cases, it is a bigger force at work! Schools cannot be awarded outstanding if their attendance is below a certain percentage,’ said another.