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Letter about poor attendance - should I worry?

(66 Posts)
FlatsInDagenham Fri 25-Jan-13 14:25:44

DD1 is in reception. Since starting in September she has caught every virus going and seems to be constantly fighting a new illness and has had quite a few days off school, particularly since winter set in.

So we had a letter this morning from the school regarding her attendance rate, which has dropped to 86%. It says that 'the LA Attendance Officer begins to take an interest in children's attendance that falls below 90%'

Should I be worried? What am I supposed to do when she is genuinely ill? Maybe I should see her GP.

expansivegirth Fri 25-Jan-13 15:00:04

If she's under five it doesn't matter a jot. She's not legally obliged to be in school anyway so the attendance officer wouldn't even bother.

You could ask the school if it's a 'form letter' - ie goes out to everyone, automatically generated, and has no real meaning or force.

You could ask the school if they want a doctors letter to prove your daughter is ill, and what provisions they make to cover the cost for this to be issued if this is what they indeed required (and do they need it for colds and coughs as well).

You could ask if the school is happy for your daughter to be sent in while ill, and whether they have a sick room sufficient to care for her throughout the day if her temperature/stomach ache whatever worsens.

You could ask the school how they differentiate between actual truanting dangerous to a chlld's education (ie five year old being kept at home because mum too drunk to get out of bed) or five year old being a bit ill. And whether the school makes this distinction before sending the letter to the attendance officer.

You could ask the school to clarify this in the form letter so parents don't get unnecessarily anxious.

You could rage about this in your head.

You could ignore it.

lougle Fri 25-Jan-13 15:10:49

In DD2's case:

Yes - it was a form letter
Yes -they want a sick note each and every time.
No - they won't cover the cost
No - they aren't happy for her to be sent in ill, but insist that I must be lying that her temperature was 39.7 for an entire week while she was in school.
No - they aren't prepared to entertain a situation where the doctor refuses a sick note as they aren't actually ill, but to send them in would break school policy (ie. vomiting the night before but perfectly fine in themselves - policy is 48 hours).
No - they don't differentiate.
No - they will not make a distinction
Yes - they will involve EWO
No - they won't clarify
Yes - I did rage about it in my head (and had assertive discussion with the HT)
No - it didn't change anything

So there you go.

expansivegirth Fri 25-Jan-13 15:14:33

That is INFURIATING. Poor you.

RiversideMum Fri 25-Jan-13 19:17:51

Maybe I shouldn't say this being teacher, but the chances of an EWO taking any notice of a reception child with 86 pc attendance are virtually nil.

traintracks Fri 25-Jan-13 20:14:42

Tell them that if they want a sick note you will give them written consent and they can write to the GP for it. Then they will be responsible for the fee. I'm a GP and we try to discourage these notes otherwise we would have no time to see sick people!

MushroomSoup Fri 25-Jan-13 20:31:32

86% is very low. There is no child in my school with such a low attendance, including a girl with a life threatening disease.

MushroomSoup Fri 25-Jan-13 20:32:20

River, as a Headteacher I can tell you that my EWO would be following this child.

expansivegirth Fri 25-Jan-13 20:40:24

So, out of curiousity, when does the EWO worry?

If a child is doing well, has a generally good attendance (when not ill), is never late, has a great attitude towards school etc and clearly comes from a family that is not going to let that child sink - what would the EWO do in say, Y1 or Y2 if attendance was around 85 per cent because of either 1) illness or 2) one ten day absence for a holiday (or whatever).

Would they waste their time on this?

THe point of the attendance policy is because of the so-called link between attendance and achievement later in life. But it's a correlation, not a causal link. It depends why they are absent. Does an EWO have the leeway to make this distinction?

Lara2 Fri 25-Jan-13 20:43:00

Please correct me if I'm wrong anyone, but I thought that although you don't have to be full time in school until the term after your 5th birthday, once you accept a full time place and attend full time, you're supposed to have an acceptable level of attendance or the EWO will be involved.

expansivegirth Fri 25-Jan-13 20:49:13

I believe that is true. kids can go part time with the heads agreement up to that age with no impact on attendance statistics. mine did.

expansivegirth Fri 25-Jan-13 21:08:30

Sorry Lara. I'm so tired. I'll shut up. I thought that EWOs didn't get involved before five, but you could well be right.

MushroomSoup Fri 25-Jan-13 21:28:18

EWO would definitely be involved with 4 year olds. If you accept a place before the term your child turns 5 you are expected to attend regularly.

FlatsInDagenham Fri 25-Jan-13 21:48:16

Mushroom, what is your advice? My DD has not had a single day off that wasn't necessary due to either a high temperature or vomiting within 48hours. She has picked up every single virus possible since starting school. What am I supposed to do next time she is ill? Send her in? Genuine question - I am really worried about this sad.

FlatsInDagenham Fri 25-Jan-13 21:49:04

By the way, she is 4. Her birthday is end of August.

expansivegirth Fri 25-Jan-13 23:00:57

What is the point of 'authorised absence'. Do the absence statistics make a distinction between the two? Is the only difference that if it's authorised the EWO wouldn't be involved?

PastSellByDate Sat 26-Jan-13 08:09:34

Hi FlatsinDagenham

Is this the first time your daughter has gone into a situation with a large group of children? (i.e. did she attend nursery or play group before starting school?)

If this is the first group situation for your DD - then I'm not surprised. When my DDs started nursery they were sick a lot - usually when I could least manage/ handle the loss of time at work. I had a lot of unpaid leave during that stage, because my girls were always sick - chicken pox, fevers, vomiting, you name it.

What I will say is this, if you see no improvement than generally this may indicate that your DD has a weak chest, tonsil problems, or poor immunity, etc... and that is worth discussing with your GP. I would start keeping a log of when she is ill, what the symptoms were (high fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, chicken pox, ear ache, swollen glands, etc...) because there could be some underlying issues.

I'd also think about her general diet. Is she getting five servings of fruit or vegetables a day. It seems silly - but lots of fresh fruit and veg (carrot sticks, dried fruit, fresh fruit, etc...) really do help general health. Should you consider a children's vitamin?

As others have said - your DD is only 4, so there is concern at low attendance, but it isn't going to get you in trouble. A boy in Y4 had chornic absence due to tonsilitis but was on a very long waiting list for surgery to have his tonsils removed here. He finally had surgery (after many cancellations) late in Y4 and since then he's never missed school.

I think the way to take this is that the system was so abused but parents claiming illness that 'illness' is no longer respected as a reasonable excuse for absence.

Secondly, the money a school receives is based on attendance - so unauthorised absences have to be kept to a minimum from the school's point of view.

Look at it this way - if an EWO officer came visiting unexpectedly and witnessed the fever and vomiting he/ she would agree it was absence due to illness. Unfortuantely not everyone has good health/ immune systems.

The problem with the letters for ordinary parents who aren't lying about passed out on drugs/ drink - is that they are rather intimidating. But bear in mind you are doing nothing wrong - you are following the school policy and it is up to the City Council EWO to prove you are willfully keeping your child off school (which from what you are saying, you very definitely are not).

FlatsInDagenham Sat 26-Jan-13 10:29:55

PastBy - thank you for your response.

Yes she was at a preschool setting but it was much smaller than this so she came into contact with far fewer children,

I will look at her diet. She eats a lot of fruit but probably not enough veg. And I'll think about giving her a multi-vit too. Thank you for your suggestions.

cory Sat 26-Jan-13 11:45:57

"I think the way to take this is that the system was so abused but parents claiming illness that 'illness' is no longer respected as a reasonable excuse for absence."

I think the way to take this is that educational authorities, not being medically trained, have no idea of how developing immune systems work. I once explained the LAs take on attendance to a paediatric consultant in immunology and he said that medically it is totally unrealistic; everything we know about the immune system suggests that for a substantial proportion of children it will not be strongly developed enough at primary school age to preclude a number of infections bad enough to warrant staying at home (up to 17/year is still not considered abnormal!).

The minimum attendance targets are based on political decisions; they have not been worked out in consultation with people who know how children's bodies actually work. It's like the government deciding that X proportion of children must be able to walk by 14 months because lots of children can and then treating it as a failure of the nursery if they can't get a high enough proportion.

cory Sat 26-Jan-13 11:48:58

MushroomSoup Fri 25-Jan-13 20:31:32
"86% is very low. There is no child in my school with such a low attendance, including a girl with a life threatening disease. "

My dd has had lower than this throughout her school career due to a combination of chronic pain and a badly working immune system.

A life threatening disease doesn't necessarily take you out of school, but there are other disorders (including suppressed immune systems) that do.

I have made numerous cups of tea for EWOs who have generally agreed that there isn't a lot I can do other than being supportive of dd in her difficult situation. Her secondary school runs a double book keeping system which keeps her off the radar of the EWO and their attendance officer knows all about her.

5madthings Sat 26-Jan-13 11:57:06

I just got this letter for ds2 in yr6. Last term he had norovirus and had a week off, he was so poorly we had the out of hours Dr out. Then he had one day back at school and they phoned us up to come and collect him as he got poorly, he then ended up having another week off with flu. I think as he is very skinny the norovirus really took it out of him and then the flu.

Plus we have hasdloads of snow, the school mainly stayed open but sent a message saying 'only come in if its safe to travel' well for us its a half an hour walk without snow and I have a 4 and 2 yr old as well as the school age ones. I couldn't physically get the push hair (3wheel off road type) over the field to get them to school. The school said in ds2's yr group they had 20 kids make it in, out of 60 intake, so we were not the only ones!

Anyway I got the letter, spoke to the teacher and ht who were fine as they knew why he had been off and his attendance is nnormally good, no concerns etc but its standard once attendance drops below a certain amount. The school are happy with the reasons and just said to explain to the ewo.

BoringSchoolChoiceNickname Sat 26-Jan-13 12:24:00

86% is 8 days off in a term; quite a lot, but not extreme for a 4 year old in her first term at school. They get knackered at that age and it's entirely reasonable to cut them a lot of slack when it comes to R&R from minor bugs that you'd expect an 8 year old to struggle on with.

Ilovesunflowers Sat 26-Jan-13 14:50:32

That is 1.4 days off every two weeks/10 school days. Approx 3 days off per month. Yes this is a worry. Her education will be compromised if it continues. She will miss letter sounds, new numbers, new shapes, new topics starting etc.

There is little you can do if she is genuinely ill. However you need to do your bit too. I often came across parents who kept their children off at the slightest cold. I'm not saying you do but to be honest that attendance score is very low, even for a reception child. Make sure her immune system is strengthened by a healthy diet, vitamins, anti bac hand gel during the winter period when bugs run rife. Make sure she gets loads of fresh air and exercise. Probably stuff you are doing already and if it is then perhaps see a doctor to see why she is getting so ill that she has to be kept off school so often.

cory Sat 26-Jan-13 22:08:22

Quite likely there isn't much a doctor can do except say that it is normal for some children to have late developing immune system. Dd had all the blood tests for immune disorders because her school were so insistent, but the consultant told me from the start that he didn't expect to find anything because she was within normal range. And he didn't. For anything actually to show up in a blood test you would need the kind of immunity problem that would mean a feverish cold regularly lands you in hospital with pneumonia, not the far more common slightly late development of immune system that means you catch many feverish colds.

CecilyP Sat 26-Jan-13 22:32:08

see a doctor to see why she is getting so ill that she has to be kept off school so often.

But she isn't getting 'so ill'. She is getting a little bit ill, frequently - as DCs often do when they start school - I know mine did. What is a doctor going to say? Probably that she is catching all these bugs because she has just started school. Surely she can't be the only one. I wouldn't worry about her education being compromised either, unless the pace in reception is now so fast that if you miss a few days, you will never catch up.

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