Thoughts on Attendance Certificates etc for kids...

(218 Posts)
expansivegirth Sat 20-Apr-13 09:01:39

Our school has just started giving out attendance prizes for children. This is an infants school. The children are 4, 5, 6. and 7. The attendance prizes - certificates or a pencil... - are given both to individuals and to classes.

I'd like to hear your thoughts. This policy is seriously arsing me off.

I feel it's deeply unfair to hold children accountable for the fact that heir parents choose not to bring them to school or struggle to get them to school on time...

I feel it fosters feelings of failure and resentment among the class. Thus those kids who care about attendance end up feeling cross with the children who, for whatever reason, don't turn up at all and bring down the class average.

Also the school does not discriminate between absences. A sick child, a child with feckless parents, a child on authorised holiday - they all count equally towards absence figures. A child who is ill ends up not getting a certificate - or worse - getting told off for low attendance - even though she's been throwing up all night.

These are VERY YOUNG KIDS. Anyone able to defend this policy please?

(Other than a Govian attempt to train obedient workers who are able to adjust early to unfair employment laws).

MTSgroupie Sun 21-Apr-13 09:00:17

And apparently a big deal for parents as well.

ds3 will never have 100% his appointments fall in school time so he been pu ished for having various medical issues( his school do trips for 100%) which is so unfair they are no exceptions

I'd never thought about this before, probably as my children are rarely off sick and in my DD's first year in Reception she didn't have one day off and got a certificate every term. She's in Year 1 now and has had 2 days off for a sick bug so far and that's it. No one really cares about this scheme though as far as I can tell. No parents boast about their kids attendance and I don't talk about it.

But having read this thread, I'm starting to see it has pros and cons.

They get a pencil and a certificate. Nothing else at my kids School.

I know you didn't ask as such, but YANBU !

I think it's quite a lazy and ill-thought through approach by teachers and heads.

I am not impressed !

Basically because it works, if it does, by making these children feel bad about absences. Children who have either been ill, including with significant health challenges, or who come from more disorganised, disadvantaged homes.

Just how does anyone who has thought about it for a moment think that that is a good idea ? confused

BTW It's not personal, my children have been fortunate enough to receive many of these worthless certificates, and more than that, fortunate enough to enjoy a very healthy childhood.
I was annoyed by a standard letter about absences mind you, at the end of the term when DS had shingles. It mentioned "shopping" hmm

SunflowersSmile Sun 21-Apr-13 09:26:28

There are many children whose parents don't feel it is a big deal and their children not likely to get certificates/ trips out/ games afternoon either.
The discriminatory angle for those with chronic conditions is relevant; especially if prizes big.

MTSgroupie Sun 21-Apr-13 09:46:13

If prizes are big then I suspect that they don't get handed out like lollipops. If that is the case then 99% of the kids won't get a big prize. So any kid with a chronic condition won't get a big prize along with the other 99%. Why is it discriminatory?

teacherwith2kids Sun 21-Apr-13 09:53:12

Having worked in a school with poor headline attendance (partly due to there being a significant proportion of Traveller children, from families with very little tradition of school attendance at all), my experience of this is that it is something that we 'had to do' to show that we had 'made every possible effort to improve attendance' [as a school pulling it up by its own bootstraps from the borders of Spcial measures to Good, we did everything in every area that we possibly could to plug areas of possible weakness].

The main benefit, for the couple of years that the scheme of half termly certificates ran, was to raise the profile of attendance and the importance of attendance within the school and the community. We had visitors in from both Traveller and settled communities to talk about how school attendance / non-attendance had affected them, revised our approach to following up absences, took one family to court etc etc - it was a whole package of measures of which certificates were the most visible.

Individual certificates now removed in favour of a half termly cup for the class with the best average attendance - an attempt to reduce the focus on individuals (for all the reasons stated above) but to keep the profile of attendance high.

Attendance, btw, still below what is regarded as 'good' - but did improve markedly over the period that the scheme was running, so although many may see such schemes as 'ineffective', raising the profile of attendance DID improve it overall.

teacher

Troouble is as dc get older and they know class thing they become very aware of who is not in school and can aim comments at the dc even when there is genuine reasons

MTs

Because our c have no chance and when teacher say who got the reward and go on about if you come school every day next term then it may be your turn .( said in assembly )

SunflowersSmile Sun 21-Apr-13 10:52:16

Ok, so those with chronic conditions just collateral damage...
Sure they will understand why they never get games afternoon or trip to cinema.
All to the greater good of the school...
Needs to be acknowledgement of disability/chronic condition to gain equality/ level playing field.
Look forward to someone taking this issue further in a school.

teacherwith2kids Sun 21-Apr-13 11:09:40

THC - understood. School only went up to age 8 - horses for courses.

SS - our 'rewards' were simply certificates. I would have been very uncomfortable with anything more, as the children were too young to make the decision to go to school without their parents' help. And we were reasonably sophisticated about what we counted as an 'absence', so children with appointments for chronic conditions etc etc did not have these included.

SunflowersSmile Sun 21-Apr-13 11:14:46

Your schools system sounds sensible teacher- not all are...

Another one here who things it's ridiculous. It's setting up children to fail miserably. Most kids don't have a hope in hell of ever winning one. Especially when schools send them home at the slightest cough.

Far better to just award children for achievements. And they can Taylor one for every single child so regardless of how much time missed or how much a child struggled with something, they can still all be rewarded for their hard work, their behaviour, their hand writing, for being helpful or kind, for being a good friend or whatever.

teacherwith2kids Sun 21-Apr-13 11:49:24

The thing is, where's my caffeine drip, is that when you can see that a child is working hard and behaving well, but is gradually falling further and further behind because they are constantly absent for minor things (and especially when you can see a pattern of such children in all classes across the school), then as well as rewarding them for the things they do well while present, it does seem sensible to address the root cause of their slow progress, ie the attendance. (Especially as, in our case, there was a gradually spreading issue of 'well, x has time off for their birthday / when it's swimming and they have a slight cold / always has a term-time holiday twice a year and it doesn't seem to matter' amongst both parents and children).

As well as the obvious 'stick' measures directed at adults - and as I say, the LEA took 1 parent to court with our support - a minor 'carrot' for children combined with a focus on the importance of attendance (through visitors, newsletters, case studies etc) to gradually change the 'culture' around it seemed both proportionate and appropriate.

But young children aren't in control of their attendance. If mum and dad can't be bothered to take them then a certificate won't change that. And even if it did short term, as soon as they have a day off sick then they won't get it anyway. Surely there's a danger then of the parents thinking well there's no point now.

If a child is upset or doesn't want to go in a certificate again isn't addressing the reasons behind that. And what about giving them
A job as an incentive. Book monitor for the week or getting the register or handing out the homework etc.

I'm
Not having a go teacher honestly, I know you have to be seen to be doing all you can.and I know you are governed by offsets and all that follow. But unless you address the issues behind the attendance surely it's just sticking a plaster on a broken leg?

Sorry me again smile what if it also works the other way too. In that parents and children get so hung up on it that , they miss out on once in a life time opportunities. Obviously term time days out and holidays aren't ideal. But the prices of holidays in the actual holidays are three times the price. At 4/5/6/7 surely a holiday is as educational as a day in school , it's just a bit sad that a child may never get a holiday ever because they can't pay the peak time prices.

teacherwith2kids Sun 21-Apr-13 12:15:03

The issue behind much of our non-attendance was parents and children not understanding the importance of being in school every day.

One of the first ways to change that was to make very visible how important we as a school thought attending every day was - through the high visibility of certificates as well as through displays, newsletters, visitors (although the certificates were for 100% attendance, we did also focus on e.g. improved attendance, attending every day for a week etc for specific children and families). Partner organisations e.g. social services, Traveller outreach workers etc worked on it with us.

Another way was obviously demonstrating what the penalty of not attending every day was - hence the prosecution.

It's not the whole answer, but as a minor but very visible part of an overall approach, we did successfully increase average attendance across all pupil groups.

I'm glad to hear it did improve attendance. But I just think that it would at the same time negatively impact on the rest of the children. I have an asthmatic dd. it's under control at the moment but it has lead to days off in the past. Schools take children with a variety of disabilities conditions etc. some mean regular appointments which can't just be rearranged. Reception children in particular catch everything. What happens about children who have no hope in hell of getting such awards. These things mean alot to children and there's a risk of demoralising them.

teacherwith2kids Sun 21-Apr-13 12:31:42

I think if it is 'the only reward available' then yes, there is a risk of becoming deomoralised. However, in an environment where there are plenty of rewards for other things - weekly certificates for progress or attainment, awards for playtime behaviour, 'zone boards' with rewards for reaching particular levels, verbal praise etc etc - then any negative effects can be offset by 'yes, I know, you didn't get a certificate for attendance this term - but you did get one for your maths work and you read your story out in assembly, and the lunchtime supervisors picked you out as a lunchtime star TWICE'...

I have to say I am quite shocked when you say that alot of parents don't realise the importance of school. Having said that its been said on here many times that " they r under five they don't have to be there" perhaps it needs stating in the parents meetings and prospectus from schools that although there are options regarding when your child starts , one they are there they are legally bound to attend.

teacherwith2kids Sun 21-Apr-13 12:42:21

WMCD, I stated the particular cutural mix of the school further up the thread - it was, perhaps, unusual, and definitely not a MN school.

So how does it work with regards to religious holidays? As obviously they don't coincide with ours? Does that count against attendance? Sorry if you have already said, I'm on my phone and its been playing up for weeks it takes ages to skip back a page smile

There are a few schools near me where non white british pupils make up a large percentage of the children who attend. One in particular is known for its poor attendance records of these pupils. Must be very hard to address whilst still respecting their cultural beliefs.

MTSgroupie Sun 21-Apr-13 12:54:02

DD is athletic but not enough to receive a prize. She is academic but not enough to receive a prize. Loads of kids like her go through school without receiving prizes.

If you are pissed off with your DC not getting an attendance prize because of health issues then I reserve the right to be pissed off because my DD is only average sports-wise and academic-wise.

That's exactly how I was mts jack of all trades master of none. I never received any awards. It was stated on a report once that I had managed 100% attendance one year. But I also remember coughing thru entire assemblies when I probably shouldn't have been there hmm god knows how many people I infected.

madhairday Sun 21-Apr-13 13:00:13

I really don't get the argument that there are plenty of other awards around, they won't miss an attendance award.

The other awards around are all for the child's achievement personally, whether through good behaviour, effort, work in music, art, sport, good grades - whatever - all of these things are down to the child - and some are indeed because that child is gifted, but that is still recognition for something the child has done. Attendance awards reward parents and children lucky enough to not get ill. The only message given to children is that life rewards the healthy, and if you are ill (especially with a chronic illness) then you are not worth as much as those who are well.

What kind of self fulfilling prophecy might this lead to?

They may only be a piece of paper, but that piece of paper can represent a world of further hurt to a child who is already coping with a disability/SN. They are unfair and discriminatory and cannot be compared to other awards. Schools should find other ways to increase attendance for those who miss school for poor reasons, or at the least exclude hospital appts etc from attendance award criteria. Even then, it seems most arbitary to not award those who had D&V, for eg, or in ds' case a guitar exam. Yes, he missed the 100% award for going to his guitar exam. Organised through school. hmm Nonsensical things.

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