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Did I handle this interaction with DCs school poorly?

(60 Posts)
bakeofffan Tue 31-Jan-17 17:39:48

And if so what should I have done differently?

DC is in yr 11. Not terribly academic, a fairly middle of the road performer, but generally a 'good' ie non trouble making pupil in a slightly rough school. Will be going to college in Sept and not staying on in 6th form.

2 of DCs closest friends no longer attend school, one went to a special unit before starting college in yr 10, another is now home edded. Both missed long periods of school (up to a year) before these changes were made. This may or may not be relevant.

Previously DC had some occasions of not going to school, because they couldn't be bothered or were late and didn't want a late mark. This was in yr 8/9, we had a meeting with the attendance officer which largely resolved matters.

Since Sept, DC has had 3 days off due to brace fittings, 2 days with a stomach bug, 1 day when we all had awful colds just before Xmas, and then this weekend fell down the stairs at home so missed another day yesterday as was very stiff and sore (more mobile today so went in).

I appreciate the importance of attendance, etc. But I'm not sending DC to school if (in my judgment) they're not well enough to go, or they have an appt to attend.

Someone called me from the school today, I think the manager of attendance but she didn't tell me. She did however tell me how she's spoken to DC, told them attendance must improve. DC (who is a people pleaser) apologized, and agreed her suggestion they could have come in on those days - so she has said that DC must come in to school however ill they are and she'll decide if they can go home...

I wasn't happy with this - on every absence I know the reasons and it's been my decision. This felt like she was saying she knew better than me!

She then said she'd contact DCs dad for his agreement. I explained that he sees DC about once a month, not overnight, and so he had little input. She suggested a meeting with myself and 'dad' which I refused as we are NC and I'd like it to stay that way.

I did say I would attend a meeting myself if she could give me notice (as I work Ft so would need to rearrange meetings etc) or discuss it further but as I was at work - stepped out of a meeting to take the call - I couldn't go into it further then.

Which was met with a sigh/tut and a 'oh if you're in a meeting' which felt rather like she thought i wasn't in one at all!

I just feel this is a bit of a fuss over nothing. DCs lessons finish in early May, it's less than one full term, surely there are other children to focus on in lower years?

Trifleorbust Tue 31-Jan-17 17:42:53

No, it sounds like you dealt with it well. Whether or not there are issues with his/her attendance, you're yhe parent, not the school. It is up to you whether he/she attends on any given day. Obviously you also have to accept that the school may choose not to authorise further absence because they have stopped believing your reasons, but that's the extent of their authority here.

WorraLiberty Tue 31-Jan-17 17:45:53

Sorry but your attitude is a bit crap to be honest.

That's not a great attendance record at all, so I'm not surprised they're concerned.

Did your son or daughter actually need 3 days off due to a brace fitting??

I know they can be incredibly painful, but a couple of pain killers and off to school the next day surely?

Wolfiefan Tue 31-Jan-17 17:47:24

Lessons haven't finished yet. You think they should give up on your child? They could improve their grades a lot if they work from January until May.
There is a history of bad attendance. They will be aware of that and probably worried they may be slipping back.
And yes schools are judged on attendance (not their fault and bloody daft) so they are under great pressure to get kids in 100%.

pipsqueak25 Tue 31-Jan-17 17:48:15

school have to be fairly robust about these things, but ex does not need to be involved so stay firm on that one. sending dc home if they are poorly is okay if you are available for their care but it's not practical to send them in if they need time off due to illness, not fair on the child or anyone else either.

tinydancer88 Tue 31-Jan-17 17:52:12

Sounds like, given the period of poor attendance in an earlier year, the attendance staff are trying to prevent any slipping back.

Year 11 is hugely important; attendance is key for enabling a student to perform to their best in their exams.

I never in a million years would've got 3 days off for anything related to my brace. Might have left school early twice for tooth extractions, but for the actual fittings/tightenings I was brought back once the appointment was over.

bakeofffan Tue 31-Jan-17 17:52:31

The timing of brace fittings (it was adjustment/ removal/ fitting a new brace - and some treatment on final appt) plus travel to and fro meant they would at best have made it to registration in the morning then had to leave after only a small part of lesson 1, and made it back only for part of the final lesson. The last appt was first week of Jan, and no issue was raised at the time, or at parents evening which took place just before Xmas.

DC now has a removable brace (since last appt) so won't miss any further time for this now, as school are aware.

OhSuckItUpDucky Tue 31-Jan-17 17:54:07

Yes the school is under pressure to up attendance and three days appears a long time to be off for a brace fitting but I'll decide if my child is ill enough to stay off school

blueirishues Tue 31-Jan-17 17:55:20

Brace fittings can be horrific: mine were always awful. Hard to concentrate on lessons when you're in pain anyway. I think you did fine, OP.

bakeofffan Tue 31-Jan-17 17:56:28

I am at work all day, if they sent DC home they would be on their own, and have to make their way home on their own too. No real issue with them being at home alone as almost 16, but I don't think teacher should be giving the impression she knows more than I do, or effectively telling my DC her authority is greater than mine!

witsender Tue 31-Jan-17 17:58:09


NoraDora Tue 31-Jan-17 17:59:54

Your attitude to school isn't great. Your opinion of illness sounds like you set the bar lower than most for a day off.

Wolfiefan Tue 31-Jan-17 18:00:44

Sounds like they don't actually trust your judgement or don't believe that your child is actually unwell. (Due to the previous problems?)

bakeofffan Tue 31-Jan-17 18:01:26

In terms of improving grades, based on parents eve at the end of last term, no dramatic improvement is predicted - teachers basically saying with no more work DC should get a low C (or numerical equivalent in the new marking system) and with work might push it to a good C at best.

Creampastry Tue 31-Jan-17 18:05:03

Your attitude does suck to be honest.... as does your dc. What's he going to do when he leaves school and has to work?

Trifleorbust Tue 31-Jan-17 18:07:50

They're not likely to predict a dramatic improvement for a pupil with poor attendance. Get him/her to school and working hard and he/she might pull it out of the bag.

Any reason gender is a secret?

Hecticlifeanddrowning8 Tue 31-Jan-17 18:09:39

I don't think you are being unreasonable. Its unfortunate but if a child is infectious (stomach bug) then they shouldn't be spreading it about . And Braces are again a pain that this seems to fall in year 11 , but again not your fault .

bakeofffan Tue 31-Jan-17 18:09:55

I don't know that I set the bar lower.

Dental absence - appts at 11/12 taking an hour at least (and often running late). Dentist takes an hour or more to get to and from. On one occasion DC was in too much pain to go back for last lesson, on the others would have scraped back for half an hour which (as lessons are 70 mins long) I really didn't feel was worth it.

Other times- one was d&v, so clearly couldn't go in. With the cold, we all had it before Xmas, and were all off at least one day (I worked from home). My general rule is if it's something I couldn't go to work with, I don't force DC to school.

DC does get frequent migraine type headaches and always goes in with those, once I've administered suitable painkillers.

NeedsAsockamnesty Tue 31-Jan-17 18:10:07

So 3 seperate days for the orthodontist, 2 for stomach bug (so 48 hours) 1 day for a very bad cold and 1 for a fall resulting in temp mobility issues?

And for that she threatened to by pass you and obtain consent from a only minorly involved parent?

barinatxe Tue 31-Jan-17 18:14:35

You handled the call well enough, but the school are in a difficult position. Your child has been known to skive off in the past, and - no matter how valid the reasons this time - they have had an unusually high level of absence recently too. The school are expected to make contact with you to find out what is going on. While your child was not "under caution" as such, their admission that they "should have come in" doesn't help your case.

You have to remember that the person who phoned you probably has to make these calls frequently. They are used to being fobbed off by parents who don't care what their child is doing and certainly don't like being told they might be in the wrong. Most parents who are in the position of receiving the call will find some justification for their child being absent. The school are used to this sort of response and whether deliberately or not have adopted a position of healthy scepticism.

If you look at it dispassionately - try to pretend this situation doesn't involve you at all - the facts as the school see them are:
1. Child has history of bunking off.
2. Child has been absent recently for a variety of reasons.
3. Child admits that they "should have come in" during their recent absence.
4. School phones parent, who makes excuses or deflects questions, saying:
(a) "The absence was genuine!"
(b) "Don't talk to the child's father or listen to what he says!"
(c) "I'm too 'busy' to talk to you!"

This suggests to the caller - especially 4(a) and 4(c) - that you don't think the issue is important enough. That you don't want them questioning you and you have more important things to do than talk to them.

This might not be the case, and you sound like you handled the situation honestly and professionally. But I am fairly sure this is why the school have adopted the approach they have, and are a little wary that your version is the whole truth.

I would either let it go and hope your child doesn't have any more need to be absent until the end of the year, or write them a letter stating the facts and explaining why you believe the absences are genuine. Especially, state that you wish to be present if they need to question your child about their attendance in the future.

bakeofffan Tue 31-Jan-17 18:14:49

Absent the braces they have been absent on 3 occasions in yr 11. They weren't absent through illness at all in the last 2 terms of year 10.

I don't think 3 days of absences' in a year is likely to cause a problem at work. Obviously he doesn't have a fixed brace now so that won't be an ongoing issue.

BarbarianMum Tue 31-Jan-17 18:15:29

They are doing everything they can to educate your child and you are not helping them by getting your child in school whenever possible. That's the truth of the matter. A good C is nothing to be sniffed at and far better than risking a D by aiming for the bottom end of the grade.

KittyVonCatsington Tue 31-Jan-17 18:16:55

YANBU in so much as yes, you are the parent and as such make those decisions even though attendance is very closely monitored these days.

But your last point is VU.

surely there are other children to focus on in lower years

Your DS is in the most important year for the school and so far, for your DS.

It is only January and he will be missing important lessons-3 days off would mean losing three hours of a Controlled Assessment in some of his subjects for example. Not that easy to 'just catch up on as and when'.

Personally, I feel your DS dealt with this better than you did but I do understand that being pulled out of a meeting was stressful.

Serialweightwatcher Tue 31-Jan-17 18:20:18

I think you did fine - don't think the absences are horrendous and as you say he will be gone by May

Curioushorse Tue 31-Jan-17 18:25:00

Oh. Your child has missed almost 10% of all their Year 11 lessons so far this year. Yes, that warrants checking-up on you.

And they'll be struggling to come back from that in terms of work missed, to be honest.

(Plus, any school which has got a dedicated attendance officer has got some problems. They're just doing their job!)

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