Letter about poor attendance - should I worry?

(65 Posts)
FlatsInDagenham Fri 25-Jan-13 14:25:44

DD1 is in reception. Since starting in September she has caught every virus going and seems to be constantly fighting a new illness and has had quite a few days off school, particularly since winter set in.

So we had a letter this morning from the school regarding her attendance rate, which has dropped to 86%. It says that 'the LA Attendance Officer begins to take an interest in children's attendance that falls below 90%'

Should I be worried? What am I supposed to do when she is genuinely ill? Maybe I should see her GP.

expansivegirth Mon 28-Jan-13 13:23:40

But is authorised and unauthorised absence judged differently by Ofsted?

And what actually different does it make to the child... ie will it affect their future prospects in any way, their chance of getting into a secondary school etc.

What if your child is ill/taken out for a trip as a one off but is, say, among the top set in the class, working well ahead of average, and their absence will clearly have zero negative impact on their work (also by the admittance of the class teacher)?

And AT WHAT POINT CAN FINES LEGALLY KICK IN. Is it only after ten days? Or after any unauthorised absence. Do you think I should post this as a separate thread... perhaps.

DameSaggarmakersbottomknocker Mon 28-Jan-13 17:35:17

Otoh schools may not realise the long-lasting damage that is done if they fail to distinguish between these two types of parents (and children!). I totally agree with you here cory. But that's because I've been on your side of the situation too so am, hopefully, sympathetic and more eager to differentiate than most.

expansivegirth - unauthorised/authorised isn't differentiated by ofsted anymore. It used to be but now it's just the schools overall %. In fact they'd be a bit hmm if a school had no unauthorised absence. As regards fines, most schools will look towards beginning the penalty process once attendance dips below 80% and this is why they will write once attendance is under say 90% because you have to give parents a chance to improve where possible. Many local authorities have there own guidelines which are available on their websites. Most LAs issue a penalty warning notice which will ask you to ensure you're child's full attendance in school over the next 20 days or be subject to a fine. Rolling penalty warnings are quite common with persistent absentees so that as one period ends another begins. Absence during the penalty period would usually have to be covered by medical evidence and if you appealed you would have to provide it.

Hercule Mon 28-Jan-13 17:50:59

Expansivegirth - it may be that in the situation you describe that particular child's education would not necessarily be detrimentally affected. Unfortunately a body like Ofsted hasn't the time to consider every child in the school individually so has to apply a 'rule' across the board. Not to mention the fact that if one child's absence was overlooked for the reasons you describe, you would inevitably have parents of children whose prospects would be ( or perhaps are being) affected crying 'unfair' if their child's absence was pursued.

Hercule Mon 28-Jan-13 17:57:26

Unfortunately there are families where children are not attending school nearly enough to ensure they have access to a decent education (either because of personal issues within the family which they may need help with or because the parents do not sufficiently value education). It is these children the low attendance procedures are there to help.

BeaWheesht Mon 28-Jan-13 18:03:33

Ds had 82% attendance in p1 - the school were fine about it - he had chickenpox, slapped cheek, 2 tummy bugs, 2 ear infections and 2 chest infections.

lougle Mon 28-Jan-13 18:45:20

Well, I took DD2 in to school today, DD2 said 'My tummy hurts.' I explained to the teacher that I had brought her to school because she has a normal temperature, although she doesn't feel well. Teacher said perhaps she needs one more day at home and sent me to the office with her.

HT was vile to me, insisting that I take her to the doctor (despite her temperature now being normal). I took her, Dr was very unhappy that school wanted a note, so said that if they want one they must contact the surgery. As expected, DD2 has a virus.

I later got an email from the Head (in response to my email of Friday explaining that DD2 had once again come home from school with a temp of 38.5) and the content basically made it clear that she didn't believe me, that I was fabricating DD2's illnesses and that she was going to refer to school nurse (with my consent) as she felt that without medical guidance we were not going to come to a conclusion that we are both happy with.

Our conclusion is that the HT does not believe DD2 and does not believe me as her mother. We've got a new school place for her starting on Monday. It's unfortunate that she'll miss school between now and then, but I'm not sending her back to an environment where she is so unhappy and disbelieved.

expansivegirth Mon 28-Jan-13 19:19:00

Lougie: Is there room to make a formal complaint to someone, somewhere. It's extremely stupid of the headteacher to forego parents goodwill in this way. Hope the new school is far better for you.

cory Mon 28-Jan-13 19:49:56

Hercule Mon 28-Jan-13 17:57:26
"Unfortunately there are families where children are not attending school nearly enough to ensure they have access to a decent education (either because of personal issues within the family which they may need help with or because the parents do not sufficiently value education). It is these children the low attendance procedures are there to help. "

Unfortunately, if your child's education is affected by low attendance due to genuinely poor health, punishing the parents will not automatically cure the child.

Sometimes I feel that headteachers are like politicians: they really believe that if they say in a very firm voice This is unacceptable, then they have actually cured the problem.

I know dd's situation is unacceptable. So does dd. That's why she took 16 times the safe dose of her anti-depressants the other week.

lougle Mon 28-Jan-13 19:59:37

I can make formal complaints, I suppose, but that won't change the fundamental breakdown in trust that has now occurred. You can't turn back time.

If I had the last term again, I would stop DD2 being sick <hollow laugh>, stop her having school anxiety <hear that echo?> and document everything asking for referral to school nurse before she had more than a day off <irony>

cory Mon 28-Jan-13 20:05:50

I think you've done the right thing, lougle, and what I should have done years ago.

lougle Mon 28-Jan-13 20:14:48

Thank you, Cory, that means a lot. I'm shaking on the inside, can't get warm confused I think it's just the stress coming out. It's awful knowing that someone in a position of authority thinks that you don't have your child's best interests at heart, when you really, really do sad

CecilyP Mon 28-Jan-13 21:40:42

I think you have done the right thing too, lougle. It is appalling that someone in authority can browbeat you so much that you feel you have to take a sick child in to school. Who on earth do they think that helps?

I hope all goes well with the new school.

socharlotte Tue 29-Jan-13 09:35:54

Remember -the school is not in authority over you. I think peoplee often forget that.

lougle Tue 29-Jan-13 09:41:21

socharlotte - you are so right.

I emailed her 'old' school last night to inform them that she would not be returning. I have received a written offer of a school place by her 'new' school already - good going when I only enquired about a place at 12pm yesterday. Less than 24 hours!

The change in DD2 is remarkable! For the first time since October, she didn't get up and crawl in to my bed for a cuddle, sucking her hand, this morning. She is smiling and singing. It's quite amazing.

I'm dreading contact from the old school though.

Just tell them that you feel they have a better approach to attendance/ support for sick children if they enquire as to why she's leaving lougle - as socharlotte says they don't have any authority over you, so should be nothing to dread. You can just give them a brief explanation if it helps you to do so, and may help other parents and children at the school, in possibly encouraging them to take a more sympathetic approach.

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