Challenging 100% Attendance Awards:

There are many important things to make a noise about. Human trafficking, climate change, malaria epidemic, hunger, and the rights of LGBT are just a few that spring to mind.

But in my little corner of the world,

we are affected by ableism.

Bringing up a family in a society that values people only because of what they can do and how productive they are, is unpleasant. I believe we can do better

Society is permeated with the idea that to be worthy, valued and have quality of life, you must be strong, healthy and able. A change in this attitude will happen when we teach our children how to treat each other’s well. When we respect others even if they are sick, less able or vulnerable. I want to teach my son to value both his brothers for who they are, not how healthy they are.

At the end of June I posted why we wouldn’t be letting our middle son attend his 100% attendance reward to a soft play centre.

I had no idea my Facebook post would be seen by nearly 4million people and then reported in the national and global press. It touched a nerve. Some people disagreed with me for many reasons but lots of people affirmed that they too have felt uncomfortable about this award and what it is teaching our children.

If you were one of the thousands of people who would like to see a change in the way schools tackle low attendance, then take a look at this government petition. (I was going to start one, but didn’t need to because there is one already there.)

Sign your name to the Government petition HERE.

The Department of Education should regard 100% attendance incentive schemes as an inappropriate means of tackling poor attendance. It is only when DofE and Ofsted recognise the detrimental impact attendance awards have, will schools stop using them.

The Equality Act of 2010 is pretty clear:

149: Public sector equality duty

(1)A public authority must, in the exercise of its functions, have due regard to the need to—

(a)eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under this Act;

(b)advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it;

Initiatives offering ‘rewards’ during the school day (e.g. parties, bouncy castles or special privileges) should be identified as discriminatory and a potential for inciting bullying.

National and school attendance targets and strategies must be specific and supportive of families who struggle to get to school every day. They must not penalise or exclude children simply because they are sick.

100% attendance schemes and class attendance competitions are actively detrimental to school life because:

  • they demonstrate exclusion, not inclusion, by discounting children with disabilities or chronic conditions
  • children are encouraged to view their peers with disabilities or chronic conditions as weak, problematic and detrimental to class targets
  • children are encouraged to go to school when sick and spread infections
  • as soon as a child has one day off in the academic year, all incentive measures are nullified
  • schools should be encouraging improvement not perfection
  • a school that determines a vomiting child must not attend for 24-hours then excludes the same child from attendance rewards, is setting children up to fail and rewarding outcomes that are beyond their control
  • 100% targets do not foster or recognise characteristics of determination, persistence or hard work.
  • they do not affect those who are directly responsible for school attendance – parents

School attendance is important and recent research suggests it correlates with a child’s overall performance*. However, schools must be creative in finding ways to tackle low attendance. They need to stop using poorly thought out 100% attendance schemes or class attendance competitions. This change will only happen when the Department of Education and Ofsted start recognising them for what they are, discriminatory, fertile ground for bullying and not fit for purpose.

At the heart of this petition is the principle that educational establishments must be inclusive institutions that nurture, develop and support all children, including the weak and vulnerable.

*Short breaks damage young people’s future I dispute the conclusions of this government research. This is an observational study that fails to take into consideration any other factors that would also relate to a child’s absence from school and academic attainment e.g. education level of parents, poverty, nutrition, health. It would be interesting to see if an interventionist study showed attainment improving when attendance is increased, but that doesn’t appear to be available. Please tell me if you know of such a study.

If you have found my writing helpful, funny, or you just like to read it, then please head over to My Family Our Needs and nominate me for one the BAPS awards.

Thanks, Rachel