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2B pissed off over "persistent absenteeism" letter re DS

(46 Posts)
FossilMum Fri 21-Dec-12 22:52:52

So today in DS's (he's in Reception) bookbag I got a red letter from HT complaining of his "persistent absenteeism", which has apparently been "reported to the Dept of Education", and which school apparently "hopes will improve next term". He missed 11.5 days of school:
5.5 days to go to my brother's funeral in Canada (absence agreed by school beforehand)
3 days, 3 weeks ago, when he had Norovirus and had violent D&V (school informed 1st morning)
2 days, last week, when they let him scratch his eczema at school and it got so infected all the backs of his legs were weeping pus and he ended up on 2 types of antibiotics and wearing stocking bandages for 4 days (school informed 1st morning)
1 day in October to see the doctor when he complained of a really violent headache after 9 days of escalating headaches (school informed that morning; GP sent us for emergency brain scan, which thankfully found nothing).

What good is this letter supposed to do??? In my case it made me burst into tears, then get really, really angry. Yeah, I hope no more family members die suddenly next term too. I hope my son won't be violently ill, or get me worried that he might end up in hospital with MRSA or a brain tumour. And I hope I won't get any more nasty "you are clearly an irresponsible/crap parent" letters to cheer me up after dealing with all that.

And what will the school or the DoE do to us if he does have to have more "persistent" time off for illness again next term?

tiggytape Fri 21-Dec-12 22:58:58

Have you confirmed all absences in writing? Has the school got a policy that requires this (a lot do)? That is the only thing I can think of that they might be objecting too or might have triggered an automated letter like this one to be sent.

Don't be upset over Christmas - of course you cannot avoid any of that stuff but it may be worth letting the school know in writing and also reiterating the reasons for last terms absences. Unfortunately both my children require a lot of time off for hospital appointments – sometimes emergency and sometimes routine. We have never got a letter like this but both of their schools have made it clear, I need to send everything in writing and phoning in isn’t enough as far as attendance policy is concerned.

BluelightsAndSirens Fri 21-Dec-12 23:03:51

Tiggy I need to check the writing in as back up with our school, thanks for the tip off.

Fossil it's a general letter that has to be sent to tick the boxes for school policies please don't let it get you down. Things out of our remit can happen and schools have to deal with it via their own policies but as parents we deal with it as it comes our way.

I hope you have a really lovely, death free, sick free 2013 - enjoy Christmas x

fortyplus Fri 21-Dec-12 23:08:04

Anything below 95% attendance is flagged up at my sons' school. The school is contacting you now so that you're aware and if the problem persists there's a record. It's simple - they can't make one rule for the 'nice' parents and another for the 'irresponsible' ones. You have to accept that you're part of a process designed to protect all children.
Don't worry about it smile

NannyEggn0gg Fri 21-Dec-12 23:08:26

I have never heard of this before ( and we used to have regular for-no-good-reason mum-couldn't-be-arsed-to-get-out-of-bed absences at my school)
All of these absences were properly notified and therefore 'authorised'.
I'd be having strong words in the New Year.

FossilMum Fri 21-Dec-12 23:10:09

Thanks for your reply, tiggytape. No, I didn't send anything in writing, but was never asked to by the school office, his teacher, or anyone else. Perhaps they have such a policy, but like to keep it a secret! I did talk in person (3 times) to the school's special liaison person for dealing with bereavement, who, bizarrely, also signed the red letter (together with the head teacher). When I've calmed down next term I'll ask if they want these things in writing. Sorry you've had to deal with lots of hospital appts.

libelulle Fri 21-Dec-12 23:10:46

but they can fortyplus - the OP made them aware each and every time of the good reason for her son's absence. Why should there be an automatic trigger at all? Surely that's the whole reason why schools differentiate between authorised and unauthorised absence.

lovelyladuree Fri 21-Dec-12 23:12:16

Schools have targets for absenteeism. HT will be challenged about your son's record. When pupils show above average absenteeism, it also flags up safeguarding issues, which also have to be addressed. A child requiring a brain scan for head pain is quite unusual, you must agree.

MaryMotherOfCheeses Fri 21-Dec-12 23:12:21

I really wouldn't worry about it. It's an automated letter based on crude stats.

Have a word with the head in January. I'd be amazed if she didn't apologise and it didn't go any further.

3littlefrogs Fri 21-Dec-12 23:14:27

The school has to have a written, signed reason every for absence from the parent. A phone call is not sufficient. But the school should have made you aware of this at the time.

maillotjaune Fri 21-Dec-12 23:17:41

But they can't authorise absences due to sickness.

I felt like this when I had a letter (DS1 missed 5 days due to chicken pox, 2 days D&V to comply with school policy after late Sunday illness, and was sent home twice because school welfare person said he had a temperature - which was mysteriously normal after a walk home in fresh air).

The thing is it's policy, and doesn't mean Michael Give is coming round to scare you grin and you know you have good reasons.

Try to stop worrying and enjoy the holidays.

FossilMum Fri 21-Dec-12 23:21:43

And thank you to the rest of you who replied and crossed in the ether with my message to tiggy. Great how a few nice perfect strangers can cheer you up (on my own right now as DH away for a week till tomorrow). I still don't get why authorised and unauthorised absences seem to be lumped together; I remember another MNetter recently got upset because her DC's illness meant she couldn't go to a party for those with perfect attendance. Surely these things should be treated differently.

maillotjaune Fri 21-Dec-12 23:26:07

Well 100% attendance rewards are a whole topic in their own right. Saw a thread earlier about an iPad or somesuch as a prize!!!

tiggytape Fri 21-Dec-12 23:27:48

FossillMum - tell me about it! Luckily we don't have rewards and fanfares at school for 100% attendance. Apart from encouraging kids to come in having been up sick 4 times in the night - which is awful for everyone, it also penalises children with disabilities who require frequent hospital check-ups. Neither of mine would ever get 100% attendance if authorised and unauthorised was treated the same because they already have hospital appointments booked up most months until the end of next year.

tiggytape Fri 21-Dec-12 23:29:12

..and of course it penalises children who are bereaved, in accidents or who are immuno supressed too - none of which they can help and all of which is distressing enough without it leading to an additional upset at the end of term too.

FossilMum Fri 21-Dec-12 23:32:17

maillot - can they really not authorise absences due to illness? How absolutely idiotic [bangs head and realizes DS has only just entered The Machine].

Um, lovelyladuree, I was upset enough before you suggested I might have SS after me if my son has the temerity to get flu or something next year.…

WorraLorraTurkey Fri 21-Dec-12 23:36:23

This is a standard letter that most schools are now giving out when absence drops below 95%.

Honestly, if you know deep in your heart (and it sounds as though you do) that you couldn't have done any more then just bin it.

It may be the first letter you've had like this but I doubt it'll be the last during your child's future years at school.

I'm at a loss as to what the DFE would do about it though? Are you sure it didn't just state their guidelines?

Normally they threaten to put you in touch with an LA home-school liason officer or attendance officer.

maillotjaune Fri 21-Dec-12 23:38:30

Happy to be corrected but I thought authorised absences were when the HT agrees in advance e.g. someone in DS1's class has got through to international finals of a dance comp that requires a day to be missed. Or DS2's friend whose aunt is getting married abroad and needs to leave school Fri lunchtime to get there on time.

I suppose hospital appointments could be authorised in advance, but "DS is vomiting" can't be.

WorraLorraTurkey Fri 21-Dec-12 23:43:11

Attendance rewards don't penalise anyone.

They are given to recognise the school's appreciation of children who are fit enough to attend school and are conscienious enough to do so...even when they're having an off day/have a cold or other minor ailment.

There will always be children with legitimate reasons to be absent from school

But there will also always be children who have minor ailments but 'push themselves' to go in...rather than persuading their parents to let them have a duvet day. Kind of like an adult 'thowing a sickie' when they could actually go to work.

WorraLorraTurkey Fri 21-Dec-12 23:46:26

maillot if my kids are off sick and I don't phone the school or send them in with a letter when they return, it would go down as unauthorised.

If I did those things it would go down as 'authorised illness' or some such description.

You're right about the 'authorised in advance' too though. They're just all ways of categorising absences.

tiggytape Fri 21-Dec-12 23:48:13

WorraLorraTurkey - they penalise children who desperately want one and can never have one because they know a year in advance they won't be at school 100% of the time.
They penalise children who have responsible parents who don't send them to school after they've been throwing up all night even if they 'feel fine and are bored at home' the next morning.

If you want to reward children who battle on through a minor ailment and try hard at school regardless of a cold then have effort prizes. It shows good effort to come to school with a sniffle and work hard on maths rather than lie at home under a duvet.

The only thing attendance certificates reward is good luck in being healthy or lack of consideration towards others in sharing a horrible illness. Neither of those things are worthy of a reward.

maillotjaune Fri 21-Dec-12 23:51:07

Worra I didn't know that a letter made a difference (bar one shocking term my DSs have usually only been absent for appointments).

Today I did talk to 2 parents whose children were trying to put on school uniform last week while throwing up thanks to norovirus as they were desperate to get their certificates. grin

WorraLorraTurkey Fri 21-Dec-12 23:51:32

I disagree.

Lots of kids have good luck in being healthy but still can't be arsed to go to school...especially if they're feeling a 'little bit ill'.

If attendance rewards keep them making the effort to attend, I think they're a good thing.

I'm not sure they'd encourage anyone with a 'horrible illness' to attend school though Lol.

WorraLorraTurkey Fri 21-Dec-12 23:52:55

maillot different schools have different policies.

My DS's Primary are happy with a phone call but my other DS's senior school insist on a phone call and then a letter upon return.

Some schools don't make their policies clear enough though sad

FossilMum Fri 21-Dec-12 23:56:22

OK, so I just reread it and in my red haze 1st time round I missed the sentence in the middle that says "We acknowlege that school has received a reason for the absences and we thank you for working alongside us to improve attendance". So they didn't need it in writing after all? I'm not sure how I'm supposedly working alongside them to improve attendance… It also suggests that if attendance doesn't improve, school will "work alongside supportive outside agencies".

Yes, I'm still a bit upset, but I'll try to get a grip; it's clearly some idiotic Standard Policy thing, but frankly it's a seriously flawed policy if all it is make parents of ill/bereaved children feel crap and vaguely alarmed. I would understand all this just fine if he'd been absent with no known/good reason.

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