Four reasons my son won’t accept his 100% Attendance Award.
No. 2 son has been awarded an evening at a soft play centre because he has 100% attendance at school. He loves going to soft play, he loves going out with his friends, we love it when school reward him BUT he won’t be going. Here’s why…

1) We don’t reward luck.

In this family we will think of as many reasons possible to praise our children. 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.

2) 100% Attendance Awards exclude the weakest.

In this family you are not shamed for ill health, vulnerability or weakness. In this house you are not encouraged to spread germs when you are unwell. In this house we look after ourselves and the weakest amongst us.

Can you imagine a work place that at the end of each week marked out all the people who hadn’t been sick? (I know it happens) 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. Take a moment to think about the kind of atmosphere this creates. Is it fostering community, commitment and pride? Or division, isolation and the vilification of the vulnerable? What impact does it have on people who had days off because of bereavement, mental health problem or chronic conditions?

What 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?

3) He had no control over his 100% attendance.

In this family you don’t take praise for something you didn’t do. He had no control over his attendance. I took him to school and it would have been my decision to keep him off. I should get the reward (or not) for his attendance.

4) We are taking him out of school for 5 days at the end of term.

In this family we value school and work but we also know the importance of making memories and having rest. So our son will finish his school year one week early and go to Italy instead of class parties, watching films and playing end of year games (with permission from school).*

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 – there has to be a better way.

But most importantly these kinds of rewards are not fit for purpose.

They don’t support struggling families. They aren’t going to persuade a parent (or child that its worth skipping that term-time trip to Disney. Attendance rewards are so much more toxic then helpful. If we can’t get this right, what hope do we have of seeing a change in our public policy which supports the disabled rather than isolating them.

There are many creative ways schools can tackle non-genuine absence without penalising the sick.

*We are going on holiday without our eldest son who is severely disabled. As a result we need to go during school term as we cannot expect anyone to care for him 24hours a day. As it is, a complex package of support from family, hospice, paid carers and school will mean the holiday takes place. He will have a blast, be spoilt rotten and much prefer staying home with his routine. It isn’t how we imagine a family holiday but it is sadly what is needed for us. Loving a child with a life-limiting condition means we know how life is short – we all only get one chance to live it well.

Original post July 2017, edited June 2019.

Hi, thanks for dropping by. My name is Rachel a nurse, writer, speaker, trainer and mum living in Essex with my husband and three sons; one of whom has severe disabilities and life-limiting epilepsy.

As well as doing laundry and endlessly trying to tidy away toys, I blog here and won the 2018 BAPs award for ‘Blogger ‘Making a Difference’ whilst being a finalist in the ‘Practical advice for families’ category. In 2015, I published my memoir ‘The Skies I’m Under’. I think an enjoyable evening should include a good book and glass of gin. Occasionally, I force myself to go for a run in an attempt to counteract a love of salt and vinegar crisps dipped in hummus.

I speak at events, conferences and lead workshops with other parents like me. I’m passionate about training professionals who care for families like mine.