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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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

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 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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

WhatKindofFool Mon 28-Jan-13 13:19:44

I had a similar letter once. I can't remember the exact figure. I chucked it in the bin and thought no more of it.

takemehometoauntem Mon 28-Jan-13 13:10:57

Don't sweat it...if your daughter is genuinely ill let the EWO do the running! Just keep a diary as mentioned above, dates, symptoms, if you visited doctor (in our area we have to describe the symptoms to the receptionist and we are either booked in to see the doctor or a nurse practitioner dependent on severity) , what was the outcome. Also make a note of times when you daughter is sent home, symptoms/reasons (you would be surprised how many half days there are when a child has been sent home before dinner which soon add up to full days, make a note of times when your daughter leaves school with a temp, what her temp was, and then what she was like the following day. My son tends to get really nasty flu like symptoms when he gets stressed (very low energy, eyes glazed and red, rubbish in his throat which he can't move, more argumentative than usual, lower tolerance levels than usual), I will go by my own instincts on whether or not he is ill enough to attend school, sometimes I give him some medicine and see if I get a phone call later that day or just keep him off. But he doesn't necessarily need to go to the GP (TBH I would feel that I was wasting the GP's time especially if I knew what was wrong hmm) Maybe it would be a good thing to go to the GP and explain to him what has been asked of you maybe he/she can send a little letter (and copy you in smile) to the school pointing out how unnecessary their requests are? and refuse to do this? I shouldn't think there would be much they can do if your daughters GP point blank refuses, Unless they sent the EWO out to see them too.
Oh just for the record my son is taking multi-vits, actimel, goes to bed early, eats a healthy diet, and his behavior/attention WILL deteriorate dramatically when poorly so he will probably spend more time being punished than actually learning if he is sent in to school so not too sure how his education would be effected any more if he was to attend school ill than for him to stay at home confused.

cory Mon 28-Jan-13 12:17:33

Attendance is one of the categories in which a school is judged on an Ofsted report: very hard to get an Outstanding if attendance is low.

Hercule Mon 28-Jan-13 11:50:15

Expansive girth - I'm not an expert but I don't think the school suffers financially , but it is an Ofsted requirement that attendance levels are at or above a certain level ( can't find exactly what that is at the moment). But I was under the impression that the main problem is that Ofsted is now very results driven and the school has to show high levels of both attainment and progress for all pupils. If a child's attendance is low then obviously it's harder to ensure they make the recommended progress( if they're not there the school can't teach them). So low attendance has an indirect negative effect on the results of the school.

socharlotte Mon 28-Jan-13 11:34:33

'Nicely dropped in that your dd is at grammar school Socharlotte wink. '

lol .I honestly had a reason for that which I didn't state!It was to say that DD is worried at missing school because of the pace of work, and the amount she will have to catch up when she gets back! For example my DSIL has taught French in several comprehensive schools where the year 7s are not taught much grammar , dds class have done lots!

Really Op I wouldn't engage with the school too much over this.Just say she was ill and leave it at that

expansivegirth Mon 28-Jan-13 11:08:58

BTW: Please can someone explain to me EXACTLY in which ways the school suffers if the children fall below a certain attendance ie financial? Ofsted and it's ramifications (linked to money?). AND WHAT IS THIS LEVEL PLEASE. ie. Is it judged against national guidelines.

ALSO LEGALLY at what stage is a school allowed to fine. And how easy is it to challenge a fine?

expansivegirth Mon 28-Jan-13 11:06:19

lougle: Why don't you send an e-mail to the head that you understand that she does not trust you, and does not trust your judgement. Therefore, next time your daughter is ill you will take your daughter into school, and ask thehead to make the call. Bring a thermometer. This is what I would be tempted to do.

I'm just thinking even if an attendance officer did arrange to come and see you about this I'm sure she'd be pretty easily reassured. So, try not to stress about it. Basically it's an automatically generated letter. We had one for DS once when he had been off with shingles. It even mentioned not taking time off for shopping which was bloody cheeky in the circumstances. I did go in to see someone at the school about it and make my feelings and objections known.
But equally you could ignore it if that's easier.
It would be nice if they at least included more concern for the possibility the child has been ill, especially where the parent has told them why the child has been absent hmm

FlouncingMintyy Mon 28-Jan-13 10:11:55

Nicely dropped in that your dd is at grammar school Socharlotte wink.

socharlotte Mon 28-Jan-13 10:08:48

My DD who is 11 and started at grammar school last term has been off sick loads.Again, just low level things .Just recently she had a rash accompanied by a mild fever, then a heavy cold and then diarrhoea one after the other.Last Wednesday she was complaining of tummy pain and feeling queasy but no other symptoms so I sent her in because she'd been off a week and a half!.The school rang me to collect her at lunchtime and I took her to the docs.She took one look at her and was horrified that I'd sent her to school so pale and washed out and that she should stay off til at least Monday and get properly recovered.
You can't win!!

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