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School threats over attendance

(9 Posts)

MNHQ have commented on this thread.

aldi266 Tue 02-Dec-14 12:06:26

Hello,
My 16 year old daughter is in her last year of high school. She was a good attendee and a very outgoing person until the sudden death of her sister, our eldest daughter and her only sibling, 3 year ago, along with her Grandmother, Great Aunt (a substitute grandmother), and her Grandfather all in the space of 3 months.
Since then she has been struggling, suffers from panic attacks, agoraphobia, night terrors and depression. She had a successful referral to C.A.H.M.S. earlier this year. She has been prescribed beta blocker by her GP. Her condition continues to deteriorate. We have kept close contact with the school, had regular meetings and are due to have another meeting this week. Up until now they have seemed co-operative and sympathetic if ineffective. Out of the blue, last weekend, we received a letter telling us that all absences would be treated as unauthorised if we did not give written proof from a health professional that she was really ill on that particular day. The threat of prosecution and an anti social behaviour order were threatened.
We are no strangers to these kind of threats, our eldest girl has real issues with school and ended up being partially educated at home and school. The Educational Welfare Officer was a real bully and insisted up until the week she died that there was nothing wrong with her and we were too soft.
I and her father are both suffering from depression and the added stress is telling on our health. It incenses me when they suggest we do not have our child's interest at heart and don't care about her education as we have made it clear on many occasions that we do and if she is off we always try to work through her timetable with her.
She is neither disruptive or abusive at school, on the contrary very polite and well liked by many teachers.
Has or is anyone else had similar experiences and if so do you have any advice or want to swap notes?

Monathevampire1 Tue 02-Dec-14 19:10:35

Could you home educate her? I am so sorry for the overwhelming losses your family have had to deal with.

DawnMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 02-Dec-14 20:12:38

Hi OP,

We're moving your thread over to our Secondary Education topic. Hopefully you'll receive plenty of advice and support there. flowers

Runningtokeepstill Wed 03-Dec-14 09:26:16

This sounds like the dreaded standard letter being sent out in totally inappropriate circumstances. I have had these in the past (2 dc with different chronic illnesses affecting attendance) and it is really stressful and infuriating. I think schools feel under pressure about attendance statistics and then send out these standard letters to all parents whose children fall below a set attendance level regardless of any physical and/or mental health issues. It's a kind of "tick box" mentality that disregards the sheer anguish this causes for parents and children who are doing their best in the most stressful of situations.

If your dd's attendance fluctuates a lot it is not going to be possible to take her to the GP surgery every time she is off school and the GP isn't obliged to provide a letter for every day/period of absence. Can you get a general letter stating that due to her current situation she will need to take time off when it all gets too much?

What are CAMHS doing? When you said a successful referral do you mean successful in that she actually got seen rather than languishing on a waiting list or were they any good in helping her? If they are helpful they should be liaising with the school and making it clear there is an ongoing health problem.

I cannot imagine a prosecution would go ahead in your family's circumstances but you need some support with this. You can get legal advice from Coram Children's Legal Centre: www.childrenslegalcentre.com. You have to ring up and it takes many attempts to get through - if nothing else this shows you are not on your own with this type of problem!

If you can get it together to do this, then a calm letter to the head teacher or chair of governors stating that you have provided medical evidence in the past, will continue to keep them informed but see no reason why they should be threatening legal action when your dd is clearly ill. Whatever else you do, keep copies of all correspondence and keep a diary entry of any phone calls or in person "informal chats" so you have a record of what has been said.

mummytime Wed 03-Dec-14 11:11:59

I echo the diary. Record all her visits to CAHMS, the GP etc. Do talk to CAHMS about the school's letter. Try to keep appointment letters etc. Do also keep a written note of why she isn't in school.

Then write back to school pointing out that they know the difficulties your DD has been having, that she is still having counselling etc.
Your doctors may have a standard letter about school absence letters, you can provide one of these to the school if so. You may also give permission for the Surgery to speak to the school about your DDs absences.

MEgirl Wed 03-Dec-14 12:35:06

I got one of these letters once way back in Year 9. DS now in Year 11 and still missing school ocassionaly. In the middle of Y10 we also had a referral to CAMHS for our other DS and they came in to school with us for a meeting with the HOY, SENCO and Pastoral Care Managerto discuss both children. Since then we've not had to give any documentation except if they missed a controlled assessment. The SENCO is very much in our corner and as soon as there is a wiff of a problem I call or email her.

Would it be possible for CAMHS to do somthing similar for you?

TheFirstOfHerName Wed 03-Dec-14 20:34:34

I'm sorry you have had such loss and tragedy to cope with.
DS1 has had problems with anxiety, panic attacks, OCD and depression after we had a sad, difficult year. At first I thought it was normal bereavement, so I didn't seek help for him straight away, but when he did get a diagnosis of PTSD and CAMHS input, the appointments were so frequent that he was missing a lot of school. I wrote a letter to the office every single time, so maybe that's why we haven't had the official letter.
I find it sad that the school aren't more supportive, considering everything that your family has had to deal with.

TheFirstOfHerName Wed 03-Dec-14 20:39:51

Does your daughter have a diagnosis? I am not a psychiatrist, but her symptoms sound quite similar to DS1's before he received his diagnosis and treatment. He had night terrors, panic attacks, hypersensitivity to noises and crowds, depression and intrusive negative thoughts. This was triggered by a series of tragic events we experienced.

Ionacat Thu 04-Dec-14 18:45:26

Sounds like one of the standard letters that are sent out and someone sent it without thinking or a member of the office had been asked to send it to everyone with attendance less than a certain percentage. I would contact whoever has been meeting with you at the school and mention it, as it seems it would be silly to get a GPs note every time.

What are the school doing to support? Reduced timetable to make things manageable? I used to have one of my tutor group who had a CAMHS referral and issues coming into school whom I had a good relationship with, so when she didn't want to come in, she had an agreement that she could come and sit in my classroom and work there, one of her class would bring work across and there were days when she stayed there all day (used to offer me cups of tea, bless her) and other days when she'd go to one or two lessons and stay with me for the rest and other days when I saw her for tutor time as she felt okay enough to go to lessons. Other schools have areas especially for this but sometimes when they aren't feeling great they want to stay with a teacher they get on well with. Hope you all get the support you need.

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