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Absence due to illness

(28 Posts)
wheresthewine36 Mon 14-Nov-16 13:03:55

Hi all,
Looking for some advice regarding school absence.
Apologies for long post but trying not to drip-feed.
I have 4 dc's of school age, dd's aged 8,7 & 5 & ds aged 4.
We have recently moved to a new area and dc's are at a new school - they are happy at the school and I have no issues with the school myself. Unfortunately, since they started in September, they have missed quite a lot of sessions through illness - and it is genuine illness. My ds's attendance record is 74%, dd3 is 77% and dd's 1&2 are 82% and 84%.
The school has a sensible 48hr rule for sickness and diarrhoea and there have been sickness bugs going around the school which my children have picked up.
Last week, all 4 dc's were at school on Monday. When I collected them, ds had a raised temperature and was listless. Ds's class teacher said he hadn't been feeling well since lunchtime. Ds said he felt sick and sleepy. Dd2 also said she felt unwell. Monday night, ds was sick, temperature was very high and he slept from 5pm until the early hours of Tuesday. Dd2 had perked up and went to school on Tuesday along with dd1 and dd3. Whilst dropping them off, we saw ds's teacher to let him know ds wouldn't be in class. Teacher remarked upon how unwell ds looked.
When I picked dd's up from school, dd2 was visibly unwell - very flushed, listless and feeling sick. Ds and dd2 continued to have high temperatures (controlled with calpol) and vomiting on Tuesday night.
On Wednesday, I took dd1 and dd3 to school, saw dd2's class teacher to let her know dd2 wouldn't be in school, teacher was understanding and reminded me of the schools 48hr policy. Ds and dd2 both vomited again on Wednesday.
Dd1 & dd3 woke up Thursday morning complaining of nausea and both had raised temperatures. I kept them both home and called the school to advise them.
Ds and dd2 were not sick on Thursday but both still had raised temperatures, headaches and were nauseous. Dd1 and dd3 both vomited on Thursday. All home again on Friday, as per 48hr rule. Saturday, all 4 dc's vomited again. Sunday, dd's were feeling better, ds improving.
Today, Monday, I have kept all 4 dc's hime again as per the 48hr rule.
I called the school to report their absence and was told that the school are very concerned about my dc's attendance record. I was asked "do you have any idea why they have been ill so often?". My only explanation is that there have been sickness bugs going around the school since September and that generally speaking, if one of my children picks up a bug, they tend to all pick it up from each other. I was then told that in future, all absences will need to be verified by a doctor. My GP surgery are hugely oversubscribed and operate a telephone triage system - no one gets a face to face appointment (unless it is a severe illness, I would presume!) without going through the telephone triage system and it is usual for telephone appointments to be unavailable for several days.
I understand the need to make sure children are attending school regularly but I'm caught between a rock and a hard place - obviously I would prefer that my children were well enough to be at school but if they're not, there isn't a lot I can do about it!
My question is, should I make an appointment to speak to the headteacher about this?

golfbuggy Mon 14-Nov-16 13:15:31

We've only had about 50 days of school (assuming you are in England/Wales) since September, so an 80% attendance (a rough average for your children) means the DC have missed 10 of them - which is a lot if there are no underlying health issues and you're just saying that the DC happen to catch the bugs that are going around. Most children are really not ill that much - especially once they get past Reception/Y1. So actually I'd worry from a health point of view why they are ill so often - and if they happen to catch another bug in the near future I'd be taking them to the GP anyway.

This is likely a blanket policy at your school and I doubt you will gain anything by seeing the headteacher.

wheresthewine36 Mon 14-Nov-16 13:30:43

Yes, golf, that estimation of their absence is a fair approximation. I have no explanation for why they catch pretty much every bug going - they have healthy diets, no underlying health problems that I'm aware of...but if there is a sickness bug going around one or other of them will usually catch it and within a few days, they all have it. I really don't know what I can do differently!

irvineoneohone Mon 14-Nov-16 13:34:31

My ds used to be ill all the time and attendance was quite low.
When he gets ill, I tends to catch it as well so I can understand it's hard not catching illness from other children.

What we always do is reinforce all the hygiene routine properly, especially hand washing. Use anti B gel/wipes. (We have it in every room.) Eat lots of Vitamin C rich foods. Wear masks in the house if coughing.(I know it's odd, but keeps bugs to themselves and protect throat from drying at the same time!)

My ds is 8 now, and he doesn't seems to get ill so often now.

wheresthewine36 Mon 14-Nov-16 13:54:55

Thanks irvine. We all use anti-b handwash and I am especially careful when any of them have a contagious illness. They're not massive veg eaters but eat tonnes of fruit. My ds seems to be the one that catches everything first, the others promptly follow suit! I would be interested to know if this is normal for larger families as it is rare for one of mine to get I'll and the others not to catch it!

wheresthewine36 Mon 14-Nov-16 13:55:15


Deux Mon 14-Nov-16 14:04:16

They can't force you to verify illness via a GP. Its not a statutory requirement.

It's a box ticking excercise so when Ofsted come calling they can say, here look it's all bona fide.

If you google 'school asking for sick note' you'll find plenty of references. There is also D of E guidance on this subject. I went through this last year with Ds's school requesting evidence that he was unwell. It was a 10 session absence with viral tonsillitis and we had been to the doctors.

happyinthesunshine Mon 14-Nov-16 14:38:10

It's the new school, new bugs, their immune systems are adjusting. Sorry you have had such a rough start to a new school. Go see the headteacher, explain your concerns.
The worst they will do is have to ask a social worker to interview you (very unlikely).

Sadly I had this, our new head teacher was a total jobsworth.
My daughter had an infection, and was given normal but ineffective antibiotics . She'd been off a week before the GP called me to give me the test results, by then the infection had really taken hold so took another two weeks on new antibiotics (off for nearly three in total). Any absence from that day forward was jumped on. Yes, they were complaining about her being off with D&V a few weeks later.

I was interviewed by a social worker and I told her in no uncertain terms. She asked what could I do to make improvements to her attendance? I said I'd bring her in with her sick bucket next time and sit in the corner with her whilst she puked. I was so cross.

We don't choose to have sick children. Some children have less immunity than others.

Due to the schools approach, my stance now is, I always take her in, despite illness. Unless she's physically being sick. The school then call me an hour later, and I collect her. They have them made the call that they don't think she should be in school, not me. I don't like doing this at all. But, I have no choice with their system as It's unrealistic to get a GP appointment same day. Despite this approach I still get letters informing me that I need to improve attendance!

It's the government cracking down on truancy and a blanket assumption that all sick children must be in the same bracket as the 'I can't be bothered to take my child to school' brigade. It drives me mad.

steppemum Mon 14-Nov-16 14:39:17

To be honest, your attendance % are very low, and I am surprised that you haven't had a visit from Education Welfare Officer, and rude letters from school.
My friend has this, her daughter has about 86% attendance and she is hassled to death. They are now insisting on a GP letter etc etc. They even kept her daughter in school when she had been sick.

Keep carefull records, who was ill, 48 hours etc. Keep communicating with school, make sure you phone in every day of absence etc.

In the end there is nothing they can do if the child is ill.

Witchend Mon 14-Nov-16 14:54:36

I've got 3 dc and it's unusual for any of us (me and dh included) to catch anything off each other. I'm not fanatical about hygiene/cleanliness either.

I think the question you need to ask is firstly: Do they play you?
Do they know that if one is ill, you'll assume they're also ill if they say they have the same symptoms.
Do they tend to have illnesses that have "no evidence"? By which I mean tummy ache/headache etc. Evidence to me is vomiting or temperature.
I know from mine that if they say they're feeling sick and haven't been sick by school time they're usually not going to be sick-sometimes it's nerves sometimes it's not feeling right but they know "feeling sick" is a good illness stage.
One of mine suffers from migraines and knows that "I feel a migraine coming" is a good try on, because it's bad enough if she gets one that school isn't a possibility, but there is no physical evidence. However I now know her well enough to be able to see through to a certain extent.
Do you keep off for anything you'd describe as "not quite right" or "a bit unwell" or "a cold"?

If you don't keep off for the above then you're probably just unlucky.

I have one who will go to school whatever-she's had 7 years now of 100% attendance. She's never gone to school when infectious, but she does choose to go to school at times when I would keep her at home if she wanted to-toothache for example, she had a week at school with toothache.
With the other two it tends to be more the other way round. I require evidence that I can see. Luckily both of them their looks pity them if they are ill. But if they're at the point of do they/don't they I tend to err on the side of send them. The school will send them home if they're ill.
But also they do tend to miss school anyway because they both have health conditions so I am aware that they can miss enough school when they really can't go in.

Schools should be able to distinguish between the child who has 2 weeks off with something serious and the child who regularly misses a day a week because they're "not very well".
Their schools do. So dd2, who missed 2 weeks with flu then another week due to stress-induced migraines, plus other days due to her medical condition and was down at 83% attendance, they weren't worried about, because they could see it was mostly down to the bouts of long illness.

Also work with the school. Last year ds was ill with undiagnosed illness, which included his temperature rising in the evenings and being sick due to this. I phoned the school and spoke to the attendance officer. I explained the situation and they agreed for him to do half days and that if he was only sick once he could go back in-doctor was fairly certain it wasn't infectious.
His attendance was pretty poor that term, down in the 80%s again, but we never got an attendance letter (they usually kick in at 94%) because I had talked to the school and knew that it was genuine illness, and we were working with the school to get him in when possible.

steppemum Mon 14-Nov-16 15:11:58

Witchend - you sound as if your school is very understanding. My friends, as mentioned above, has 2 dds, one has poor attendance, asthma, regular illness (she is one who catches every bug) and hospital attendance with genuine stuff (eg ends up on crutches etc)
He younger sister is rarely ill, and rarely cathces anything from her older sister. Evene when this was explained to school, the EWO was still sent round, twice now, and gives them a really hard time.

BiddyPop Mon 14-Nov-16 15:23:09

A child playing you cannot vomit or have diarrhea on demand! Some DCs really have bad luck and a streak of illness - where they are actively ill, I think you are right to keep them off but can they get some idea of what they have missed so that on those days when they can't go back yet but are feeling a bit better, you can do a little reinforcement with them at least, even if not teaching new concepts?

BatSegundo Mon 14-Nov-16 15:24:22

One of my children catches everything going, the other less so. Same diet, hygiene procedures, vitamins etc. One year he was off three times with sickness bugs and twice with bad ear infections. I got a snotty letter about attendance. I wrote a snotty one back about being angry for being chastised for following the school's (appropriate) 48hr policy. I feel sure if more people also followed it, there would be fewer bugs going round. Some children just have different constitutions. Ignore the letters or write one back. Don't worry about EWO; you have nothing to hide and you've done nothing wrong.

BatSegundo Mon 14-Nov-16 15:29:37

steppemum that's awful and so unfair! The EWO won't be able to do anything other than hassle her though; they only take it to court if they're confident of winning. It sounds like your friend has good reasons for keeping her DD off school more than average.

happyinthesunshine Mon 14-Nov-16 15:58:00

I think I meant the EWO in my last post hmm

wheresthewine36 Mon 14-Nov-16 16:56:49

Thanks everyone. Witch, dd's 1&2 occasionally pull try to play me but unless there is something to back it up (ie actual vomiting/markedly raised temperature etc.) they go to school.
I'm actually quite annoyed by it all - on occasions where one or more dc's has been well enough for school, I've taken them, bringing the poorly one/s with us on the 30 minute walk to school and 30 minute walk home (I don't drive). The school seem to think that as they have sometimes all been off at the same time, that somehow makes their absence "suspicious". I've been called to pick 1 or more of my dc's up from school due to being unwell on 3 separate occasions and on 2 further occasions, their class teachers have remarked to me that they've been unwell when I've picked them up.
I'm going to ring my GP surgery and ask if they have a response to being asked for medical evidence for self-care minor illnesses such as stomach bugs and include it in a letter to the school. I understand that schools have to show that they are taking absences seriously but am surprised at the lack of common sense being applied.

irvineoneohone Mon 14-Nov-16 18:09:05

I think it's not really lack of common sense, but something they need to do.
We received threatening letter every year due to absence, but at the same time, school sent a note saying there's nothing to worry about, they know the situation. And ds had low attendance 3 years running, but never got into any problem at all. We did provide everything possible.( I also made records of his illness when he didn't actually needed to see a doctor, just in case, never needed.)
This is genuine. I think there's nothing you can do. And as pp said, new school and new bugs, it may settle down soon, when your dcs got immunity for it.

wheresthewine36 Mon 14-Nov-16 18:23:16

I agree that it's something the school has to do, irvine but by lack of common sense, I mean if they spoke to the dc's class teachers, they would know that on all but one occasion, the dc's became unwell at school so surely that tells them the absences are genuine?

irvineoneohone Mon 14-Nov-16 18:39:23

I am sure that school know it's genuine.
As pp said, it may worth having a chat/ talk with head/home school link.
I think the communication is very important.
If they know who you are, they tends to back you up.

wheresthewine36 Mon 14-Nov-16 19:31:11

I think you're right, irvine, just irked me with the "do you have any idea why they've been ill so often?"...seemed accusatory. Think I'll make an appointment with school head.

Bluepowder Mon 14-Nov-16 20:40:04

One thing I do in our house is to open the windows every morning for a few minutes to let some fresh air in, whatever the weather.
Hopefully, once they have adjusted, they will be off less and less.

steppemum Tue 15-Nov-16 10:23:15

just to reassure you, I kow that they are required to send out a letter at some point, and even nice supportive schools HAVE to send the letter out, and I think have to refer to EWO. The school is not allowed to decide if your child is genuinely ill, that is not their job, they have to refer. The EWO should be sympathetic to genuine illness. Communication and record keeping are important, have a diary or calendar and write on every absence and why.

wheresthewine36 Tue 15-Nov-16 10:24:09

Thanks everyone.

wheresthewine36 Tue 15-Nov-16 20:09:06

All back at school call at 11am to pick dd3 up as she's been sick and temperature up again....

user1471462428 Tue 15-Nov-16 20:18:05

I think I would point out to the headteacher that they weren't that ill in their previous school and maybe it's the schools fault for being dirty/not promoting hand hygiene. Do they put signs up with what infections are present in the school. Do they reinforce the 48 hour rule? Are the children encouraged to wash their hands before food and after the toilet? School are disgusting!!!

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