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).

radicalsubstitution Sun 21-Apr-13 13:10:34

Let's face it, MNers get very naffed off about all sorts of awards at school.

There's the 'DD hasn't won star of the week even though she's good all the time and is a high achiever. Instead, it goes to a boy for not throwing a chair on Tuesday.'

Then there's the 'DD didn't win the music prize even though she got a distinction in grade 8 piano. Instead, it went to the boy who played the triangle in the nativity play.'

This argument could run and run...

CointreauVersial Sun 21-Apr-13 13:21:38

Radical, I guess it depends whether you want to award attainment or effort....

I think Teacher is talking a lot of sense, and I can totally buy her argument about attendance awards being just a part of raising the profile of the whole issue.

teacherwith2kids Sun 21-Apr-13 13:28:28

Madhair, as I said before, we were fairly intelligent about what we counted as 'absence' (hospital appts or music exams wouldn't have counted, for example)

If we had believed that the only reason our children were ever absent from school was genuine illness regarded by everyone as sufficient for them to miss school, then we would never have gone down the 'attendance awards' route - because then, as you say, they are just a reward for being lucky enough not to get ill.

However, it was absolutely clear from our analysis that this was NOT the only reason - birthdays within the family, missing Fridays or Mondays routinely to spend an additional day with a non-resident parent, an increasing number of term-time holidays, very minor illness on e.g. a day which as 1 lesson had PE or swimming [we're talking a minor sniffle, or athlete's foot, for example], sometimes simply failure of the family to get up in the morning. The focus on attendance (certificates being part of this) were an attempt to redress the balance of this somewhat - e.g. one orf our slightly older children, a sporadic attender, took it upon himself to set the alarm and help to get his siblings up.

radicalsubstitution Sun 21-Apr-13 13:31:21

Cointreau, as I have said several times on this thread, attendance awards should not be the only awards issued by a school. As far as I can see it, awards fall into three main categories:

attainment (academic, sporting, musical, attendance etc)
progress (in anything)
effort (in anything - but very hard to judge)

In all of those, apart from effort, some children will be at a natural advantage/disadvantage compared to others. Many of these factors will be due, in large part, to parents. If you only award prizes for musical attainment, children whose parents pay for tuition will be at an enormous advantage.

A good rewards system should enable all children to achieve awards. But not necessarily all of them.

I think I've said this over and over again. I'm bowing out of this thread now.

teacherwith2kids Sun 21-Apr-13 13:44:16

(I should also say that I agree they are a blunt instrument - many children who didn't need encouragement to attend got certificates as well as those whose attendance we were aiming to improve, and equally some typically good attenders may have missed out. However, there are significantly worse flaws in a system of certificates designed only to reward 'target poor attenders' for their 'increased attendance'!)

MTSgroupie Sun 21-Apr-13 13:53:46

At the end of the last academic year the local rag had pictures of the boy and the girl that won the attendaeprize

MTSgroupie Sun 21-Apr-13 13:57:03

... attendance prize which was a trip to Chessington (the school was in special measures and truancy was a major problem).

So if missing out on a Word 'certificate' and a pencil pisses you off ........

tiggytape Sun 21-Apr-13 14:02:11

A good rewards system should enable all children to achieve awards. But not necessarily all of them.

I disagree
A good rewards system should enable all children the possibility to achieve all awards.

No child should be automatically disqualified from even the smallest possibility of winning any award and especially not on the grounds of having a disability.

glaurung Sun 21-Apr-13 14:07:17

Perhaps the queen should stop sending telegrams to centanarians as it discriminates against those who die younger due to ill health too? Good health is something to celebrate, although I can see that it is a reward in itself too.

tiggytape Sun 21-Apr-13 14:18:23

As an example, attendance bonuses in the workplace have to be very carefully managed to avoid discrimination.
You are not allowed to reward people for not taking sick days unless you make allowances for women on maternity leave (or with pregnancy related illness) and employess with chronic illness or disability - who will naturally have many more days off than others.

It would be completely unlawful to have a reward scheme based on sick leave that does not make allowances for pregnant women and disabled people.
Where such schemes exist, HR must calculate it so that people with disabilities are not in effect barred from getting the bonuses.

As this is a legal duty in the 'real world' it makes sense that it is something all people know is the norm and disabled children understand from an early age that society makes adjustments for them and will continue to do so in adult life.

Katz Sun 21-Apr-13 14:29:13

i think they should be scrapped. I've had both my DDs in tears because they've got had one due to hospital appointments, which they have no choice over the time of.

DD2 once begged me not to take her to her very important medical appointment because it meant she wouldn't get her 100% attendance and she would be letting her class down as each class also gets awards for all being in!!

teacherwith2kids Sun 21-Apr-13 14:47:09

Katz, that's just bad management on the part of the school. It is easy to discriminate between different types of absence (there are loads of codes for different reasons for absence, so even the most automated system can be used with sensitivity to discriminate between different types and reasons for absence) - perhaps a case of a need to revise the scheme rather than remove it altogether IF [as in our case] there is a genuine reason to focus on attendance in the short or longer term.

That's interesting tiggy, about workplace reward schemes.

- a good model which schools should follow

- or just scrap the whole thing of course smile

nappyaddict Sun 21-Apr-13 15:14:42

I hate them. It's not fair for children who have medical appointments to attend or who happen to have the bad luck to get ill. It's not like people get ill on purpose and it's the school that have policies on how long you have to stay off before you can return to school. I think it encourages people to send their children to school when they should be at home.

CouthySaysEatChoccyEggs Sun 21-Apr-13 15:16:10

MTSGroupie - it IS a problem when my DS2 comes home in tears because there's not one certificate he can achieve.

After I spoke to the school in Y2, when he hasn't got one certificate by that point, they eventually have him a certificate for being 'a good helper'.

That's the only certificate he has a chance of achieving.

He gets upset by it - he can't achieve an academic award because of his development delays. He can't get a sporting award because he has physical disabilities. He can't achieve an attendance award because of his asthma and his medical appointments. All of these get a prize as well as a certificate and they are given out in assembly.

DS2's 'good helper' certificate was given to him in class, no prize, no going up to collect it from the HT in assembly.

It's penalising him for his disabilities when he already has enough to cope with. He feels the difference deeply.

So yeah, some DC's do get upset by it.

auntevil Sun 21-Apr-13 15:22:20

teacher as you can see from the number of posts saying that the system is unfair on legit absences, there are a very high number of poorly managed attendance systems.
Like Katz, me and my DC take attendance really seriously. All have medical issues, 2 have SNs. Last year only 1 had full attendance last year and was rewarded. His DBs had attendance in the high 90% s - all due to medical appointments. Our school copies all appointment letters for their records. Like your school, due to a mixed community, attendance is an issue and there are incentives and sanctions applied to pull up the overall % .
What worries me is the negative effect it can have on attitude of good attenders. Last term, the DS that had 100% attendance last year, had an appointment at a hospital some distance away and had to miss the afternoon. He was really distraught at the thought of not getting the certificate. When they are handed out this year, I know that he will spend time in class in tears, and also at home. He has had no other time off than this one appointment, and his next is in the summer holiday.
It is the inflexibility of how some schools manage the system that can be disablist and what I object to.
I have already had to have the chat about head teachers awards and favouritism when 1 of them asked how child x could have got the award as he is so rude and naughty, I hate having to explain that life is just generally unfair to a 5 year old.

With the current measles outbreak (not (yet) in our area) I have been (re)considering getting the DC's immunised as we didn't get them done when they were younger. The amount of fuss their schools make about attendance is a factor in making it less likely I will do this.
Medical appointments are a good thing for children and should be positively encouraged and supported by schools.

teacherwith2kids Sun 21-Apr-13 16:30:43

Auntevil,

I understand that many are mismanaged.

I also don't think that they are necessary in MOST schools - but I hope that I have tried to explain how it can be part of an overall strategy around attendance in ONE PARTICULAR school under particular circumstances.

Perhaps a discussion with your school about their particular reason for choosing this strategy might be a way forward? There may be 'unseen by some' pockets of low attendance which this strategy has been designed to address [or it might just be badly thought out and appallingly implemented, that is quite possible too!]

KatyDid02 Sun 21-Apr-13 16:37:56

Schools should forget certificates for turning up IMO. Far better to issue certificates for achievement and for effort - all children can have a go at winning a certificate for effort if they want to.

Taffeta Sun 21-Apr-13 16:56:04

Our school does it and it's bollocks.

Surely it encourages parents to send in a child who is sick? Eg not wait the required 48 hours if D and V etc.

tethersend Sun 21-Apr-13 17:13:43

It's not the (mis)management if these schemes which make them wrong. It's their very premise.

"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."

I'm an advisory teacher for children in care. Many of the children I work with experience attendance difficulties such as teacherwith2kids describes above; however, the root cause of attendance problems, if not due to a disability or medical condition, is always the parents. This is evidenced in the attendance figures of Looked After Children which improve dramatically once they are removed from abusive or neglectful homes and placed in foster care. What exactly is it that these children have done which needs rewarding?

Primary aged children are never in control of their attendance. Addressing attendance problems is not in itself a bad thing, but they need to be addressed with those with the power to change them- the parents.

Attendance awards are simply rewards for (aspects of) good parenting. They are at best ineffective, and at worst discriminatory and harmful.

teacherwith2kids Sun 21-Apr-13 18:10:16

Tethersend, to a large degree I agree with you.

However, I would turn the question round and ask, if Ofsted is going to hold schools responsible for attendance (which it does), then what is a good and effective mechanism via which schools can do so?

Of course, in some cases there can be referral to the legal or care services, or to support services for particular groups as Tethersend describes, and then rapid identification of patterns of absence can inform such referrals.

However, in many cases the situation is not sufficiently serious to warrant referral. In a situation in which Ofsted will downgrade schools based simply on low attendance (as well as on the lower progress which is its inevitable consequence), what would you recommend that schools can do?

BoffinMum Sun 21-Apr-13 18:37:47

You're fucked if you're disabled and have a lot of hospital appointments, then.

Class awards are fine, but individual?

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