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Annoyed about a letter

(38 Posts)
beautifulswan Thu 23-Jun-11 11:26:47

I have just received a letter concerning my childs absence. It states that her absence rate has fallen below the accepted 95% (wow!) and may be a case for the education welfare officer (really??!!) To be frank I'm astounded. She was unwell a couple of times during the winter months and I have been in the heads office and discussed this on numerous occassions with her and this hasn't been a problem.

Now, the bit that really bugs me is it says if this standard of absence continues then she may also be refered to the school nurse. I didn't even know there was a nurse. (In fact I'm sure there isn't)

My instinct is to write back stating that when my child is ill she will go to her family doctor as usual and will not be singled out and humiliated in this way.

Shall I bother? Would I sound silly? I have always got on well with the head and am very annoyed to have got this letter!

MissingMySleep Thu 23-Jun-11 11:29:28

How about writing back and asking if they have a particular concern? As they know her absence has been for illnesses already discussed with the head, is there anything else that they are concerned about.

Then you will prob get a letter back saying it was a standard letter kicked out when absence reaches a set figure.

bluerodeo Thu 23-Jun-11 11:30:16

this is standard for schools, if they don't follow procedures like this Ofsted aren't very happy - chill out and recycle the paper. the head probably isn't even aware that the letter was sent out, most schools have an education social worker (esw) that has responsibility for attendance rates

Isitreally Thu 23-Jun-11 11:31:01

I suspect it's an automatically generated one that goes out to all children whose attendance reaches a certain level so I think you are perhaps over reacting a little bit. I certainly don't think the Head Teacher has sat down and dictated it to send to your personally. They might not even know you've got it.

There will be a nurse somewhere affiliated to the school even if you never see her there and that may be useful for some parents but I doubt they would force a visit on you (more if you wanted advice with an ongoing illness perhaps).

Maybe if you wanted to write back you could say that you understand why these things are monitored but wanted to reiterate that all absences have been genuine, have involved your own GP and have been fully discussed with the school already so you hope that’s the end of the matter.

LeoTheLateBloomer Thu 23-Jun-11 11:31:06

AFAIK these letters are standard issue and are sent to parents of all children who fall below a certain percentage of attendance. As long as they are authorised (you've told them why she's absent) and, if it's long periods of sick they're accompanied by a doctor's note then don't worry.

The school nurses aren't employed by individual schools. They have whole areas that they cover and are rarely called in.

I really wouldn't worry. It's not the end of the world. Or have there been other absences on top of the sickness? Holidays for example?

mankyscotslass Thu 23-Jun-11 11:33:35

This is a standard letter, I'm expecting one for DD to pop through my door soon.

If attendance slips below the 95% the letter is automatically triggered. It all ties in with Ofsted.

So don't take it personally. grin

ConnorTraceptive Thu 23-Jun-11 11:34:26

It's standard letter, don't worry. The bit about the EWO is horse manure attendance would have to be way below 90% before they flagged it up.

School's have targets to hit and have to be seen to be on top of it.

Nosilac Thu 23-Jun-11 11:34:33

Hi - I got the same letter last year - am waiting for it to arrive this year. My son has chronic asthma and gets chest infections a lot. The letters are automatically generated and they are obliged to send them. I contact the school each time he is absent and ask for work to be sent home - like getting blood out of a stone even though he was sitting Highers this year! When I received the letter last year, all I did was send a short letter back acknowledging their letter and stating that I was as concerned as they were about eldest sons frequent absences, that they were unavoidable, and that I hoped the school would be supportive in providing work for him to complete at home while unwell! Just for the record his attendance was below 80% - doesn't seem to hold him back academically - but does knock his confidence!

M44 Thu 23-Jun-11 11:41:41

For those with chronic medical conditions such as asthma......they are duty bound to make allowances so that you don't get repeated letters. My dd's attendance officer was so picky I referred her to the disability rights people- not heard a peep from them since. DD had a week off to recover from an anaphylaxis/chest infection in the first term of school and because they monitor it term by term it dropped her attendance. I was amused also with the fact that the school was closed longer for move to new building than she had been off sick!

MrsTruper Thu 23-Jun-11 13:43:36

I had one of these letters, because the school had TOLD ME to keep her off ! Crazy automated letters. It was the tone of the letter that I didnt like...ie I am harming her education etc. Similarly I got a "your kid is fat, you are killing your child" letter when anyone looking at her can see she is fit and healthy with a normal weight.

Initially I got angry at a few instances of stupid communications from the school, but as there is going to be another 10 or 15 years of education for my daughter I have decided a new approach is necessary - just ignore it and chuck it in the bin. Shame all this wastes our taxpayers money tho'

sillybillies Fri 24-Jun-11 09:21:22

my school sends them out automatically for attendance that drops below a certain level. Very annoying and just winds parents up. They don't check with form teachers for an explanation 1st so I've had kids with long term health problems receive one which is just plain rude on the part of the school. (secondary school) However it is an outside agency that organizes them and it is ofsted driven as others have said. If I've got a genuine concern regarding attendance in my form class I ring home to discuss it with parents 1st.

I would bin and ignore it and if you get any in the future, do the same.

plusonemore Fri 24-Jun-11 09:29:15

Unfortunately there are some parents who can't be bothered to send their children to school regulalrly, or who don't think it matters. There isn't really a way to distinuish between these and those with children who are genuinely ill. Do you realise that over a school life, a 90%attendance means a whole year of missed school?
As for school nurse, they tend to come in at least monthly for drop in sessions, and more often for specific cases. They are REALLY useful for people to get advice on things like nits, bedwetting, behaviour and also school phobia!

ThisIsJustASagaNow Fri 24-Jun-11 09:41:11

I have heard on here before about these automated letters.

I have not ever received one so maybe I'm not entitled to comment, but well I will..I think they should only send them to people where they are not in possession of more facts and there is a genuine concern about attendance.

If someone has taken the trouble to keep the school informed then why send it? It appalls me that such a brusquely worded letter could potentially be sent to parents of a child who is seriously ill even terminally ill and where the school already know about itshock sad Not taking it personally and 'chill' about it wouldn't really cut it for me under those circumstances. I'd be very angry.

CecilyP Fri 24-Jun-11 09:53:54

It's a standard letter - you are not being singled out for humiliation. A couple of bouts of flu would take a child's attendance below 95%.

I would be tempted write a reasoned, but somewhat sarcastic, response. Eg reiterating why your dd was off. Questioning whether the Education Welfare Officer would like sick children to attend school. Saying you didn't know there was a school nurse, but asking how you could contact her the next time your dd was ill, as you didn't realise she could provide instant cures when your GP could only suggest time off.

cory Fri 24-Jun-11 10:09:10

plusonemore, it is possible for school admin to distinguish between children with longterm/serious illnesses and others and ensuring that the automated letter does not go out to families who for one reason or another should not receive it. Dd's new school has managed this for 3 years without a hitch.

Any child with a longterm/serious problem should have a mark against her name, which means the letter does not go out. And any child that is in hospital or being educated at home whilst ill should their absences marked with a separate code. If admin just do their job properly, there shouldn't be a problem for these families. I work at a university with thousands of students: we still have to keep track of their medical conditions/disability reports etc; that's part of my job as a tutor, and part of the job of the admin staff. Don't see why it should be impossible in a school with a few hundred pupils. It's all about having a system.

Do you know something? If you have a child who is genuinely ill, you will not cure them by telling them how much the missed school is going to ruin their life! Otherwise, we could scrap the NHS: just write letters to people telling them how bad it is to be ill or injured. Dd's junior school tried that one-dd's condition was not improved in any way, all that happened was that dd tried to cut her wrists sad

Another child at the same school was not expected to live beyond her teens: family still got the same letters. angry There is no excuse: computers can deal with this things easily. The schools had had piles of doctor's letters from both our families, visits from paediatricians etc; there is noway they could claim they couldn't know if it was genuine.

One worrying factor about telling children with a health problem that they are bound to do less well is that they may believe you and stop trying. Thankfully dd didn't. But that was because she disliked the headteacher and automatically assumed that anything he said must be wrong. If she had looked up to him and admired him, she might welll have believed him and not been planning for a university career.

caughtinanet Fri 24-Jun-11 10:21:27

As others have said I wouldn't take it personally, overall its a good thing that schools stay on top of attendance. There will always be people who just slip under the 95% for genuine reasons and 5% of time off school is 2 weeks which is quite a lot of time to miss.

I think your school will have a nurse, they don't work on the premises, and they can be really helpful.

caughtinanet Fri 24-Jun-11 10:23:26

Also, your child hasn't been humiliated at all, the only person who knows about the letter is you and I assume you won't be telling her about it. Personally I'd do nothing and accept its just part of the Ofsted process.

BrigitBigKnickers Fri 24-Jun-11 10:29:29

My DD had this last term. She had had a total of 7 days off (or 14 absences.) in six months. 3 of them were the school asking me to take her home as she was unwell. (Not a hypochondriac- she gets migraines.)

All the other times she had been genuinely unwell, one bout of absence was for a vomiting bug.

The letter said I needed to work with the school to improve her attendance.

I called the school to ask if this now meant the 48 hour for vomiting is no longer in force and should I send her to school with a bucket in future grin would that be considered "helpful" in improving her attendance?

Also asked if they were planning to open a clinic to keep ill children in school so not requiring me to come and pick her up when unwell.

I know it's a standard letter but if a child is ill they are ill.

My sister had a similar letter for her DD who had two weeks off following an operation. She had a doctors letter stating she would need a fornight off- why can't the people responsible for the administration of these letters use some common sense?

cory Fri 24-Jun-11 10:31:20

sorry, realise my post was all in anser to plusonemore and not at all to the OP

OP, in your situation I would let this go

yes it is silly: I have spoken to several doctors about this (including a constultant in immunology) and they all agree that given the prevalence of infections in the early years of building up the immune system, expecting every child to be healthy for 95% of the time is totally unrealistic: it goes against everything we know about child health

but schools are not doctors and they don't know this

however, it is a silliness that will probably do you little harm unless your child has a longterm condition

as they get older they tend to get fewer infections so should be less and less of a problem

just breathe deeply, mutter never mind to yourself and drop it in the bin

CecilyP Fri 24-Jun-11 10:36:55

'but schools are not doctors and they don't know this'.

cory, I feel you are being too kind. It is common sense. Anyone with experience of small children should know this.

ThisIsJustASagaNow Fri 24-Jun-11 10:42:09

Agree Cecily. Actually I'm amazed at how laid back many of you are about getting these letters when you have genuine reasons and have already informed the school of the situation.

sillybillies Sat 25-Jun-11 15:28:28

cory and CecilyP - I agree with both your points. I had to bring it up in a pastoral meeting to stop them sending letters out to two of my form class who had genuine reasons for absences. What annoyed me most was that the letter sent to the parents is 'signed' by the form teacher even though I hadn't even seen the letter let alone written it (should point out I am a year 10 form teacher). I caused quite a stink about it at the time, so cecilyP, I agree parents should complain but please be aware that they are not sent by the form teacher (at least not at my school).

mrz Sat 25-Jun-11 15:47:11

Unfortunately the school (who has experience of small children) isn't the one setting the 95% figure CecilyP and often isn't the one generating these letters. The target is set nationally (DfE & OFSTED)

sillybillies Sat 25-Jun-11 16:26:39

mrz - for us in secondary its an outside agency sending out the letter but it was a parents complaint to myself that prompted me to complain via SLT to the agency so I think its valid for parents to politely complain. Not that you didn't say it was valid to complain, but I do think if nothing is said nothing gets changed.

mrz Sat 25-Jun-11 17:36:48

but things are changing ... the national expectation is increasing to 98% hmm

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