My son's primary school has just started an Attendance Award scheme, where students with 98-100% attendance get a certificate and special assembly at the end of term. My son has been invited to this next week.
The problem is, I am a former secondary school teacher and I have always been really opposed to attendance awards, for several reasons. I think:
1) They encourage parents to send in sick children who then spread their germs around.
2) They send mixed messages - my son's school keeps sending out reminders of the 48 hours off policy after d&v, as they have a problem with kids coming in while still
3) They punish children for being ill - it's not their fault they got tonsillitis or whatever.
4) They are focusing on the wrong people - particularly at primary, kids have very little impact on their own attendance - it's the parents who need motivating/helping.
5) Kids who have ongoing health conditions have their poor health used as a stick to beat them with.
6) It's counter to teaching practice in other areas - in a classroom you don't usually introduce a class-wide policy to address problems with a minority - instead, you target and deal with that minority.
7) Kids who consistently truant could have, say, two days off at the beginning of term, realise they have blown their chances of an award for the rest of that term and not be bothered after that. Or, on the flip side, a child could have fantastic attendance all term and then catch a d&v bug which knocks them out of the running for an award less than a week beforehand.
8) It just feels discriminatory - in the workplace you're not allowed to offer incentives to colleagues with 100% attendance and say to the colleague who, say, broke their leg at work, that they can't have the same incentive because of their injury. Or can you?
Does anyone know of any research in this area? I can find lots of school policies and case studies about attendance awards, but none of them give figures for how they actually helped the schools in question. Also, does anyone have any alternative methods that schools could use to improve attendance? The school has quite good parent communication channels and encourages parents to bring up concerns, but I don't want to sound like I am just moaning without any suggestions for alternatives.
Sorry - long post.
I totally agree with you on all points, but can't offer an alternative, sorry.
I live in a country where school is compulsory, so the schools don't need any award shemes, truancy is agaist the law and in severe cases is dealt with by official authorities.
I also don't really get the english obsession with attendance. if attending is not compulsory, then why is it such a terrible thing if kids miss school? In the end, it's the kids that benefit from an education, and if the miss big parts of it, it does noct hurt the school, it hurts the kids, right?!
I work in secondary. We have a few kids with ongoing medical conditions whose attendance is not great. We have many many more kids whose attendance is just shit and whose parents facilitate this by allowing them to stay at home for no good reason. I think it's nice to recognise good attendance in some way, not sure about a whole assembly - "well done, you showed up" is not as meaningful as awards for behaviour or achievement but i wouldn't kick up a fuss about it.
I don't see why an alternative needs to be offered. The points you've raised are all valid. I would add that an attendance award is just a bit like rewarding something that should be, and in most cases is, a matter of course. It is a pointless excersise since it will have no influence at all on the few for whom attendance issues are not due to genuine illness, but sets expectations amongst kids, who are already attending, that the most minor actions required to be part of a functioning community should be celebrated by awards. Ridiculous!
It's all about giving rewards. Attendance is easily measurable and certificates can be easily given. Students who don't 'shine' in other areas might get one. There should be other awards in place eg sports, academia, overcoming adversity, service to the school etc. Attendance / punctuality is a 'catch all' type award.
I work in HR and there's lots of HR type research and literature about why attendance awards/ rewards don't work (and may be discriminatory). It's workplace based but probably relevant to schools too.
NotEnglish - the law is fairly strict here as well. The law in England is that a parent has to educate their child somehow, whether it be homeschooling, private school or state school - most parents opt for state school.
All parents have to prove that they are educating their children and if they opt for sending them to school, then the parents can be prosecuted if a child does not attend school.
It's important to stop children truanting, because children with no education struggle to get any kind of job, end up on the dole at the tax payers expense and/or end up committing crimes and end up in prison, again at tax payers' expense.
I'd feel better about your schools award being 98-100% than most schools which are 100% only. At least that will take into account the odd D&V etc.
Our school is bound by the MAT rules which say 100% but they also give out personal awards for 'most improved attendance' for children without any medical needs and 'perseverance' awards for those with medical needs.
I think school awards which take into account those issues are more nurturing.
I completely agree with you on your points- punishing kids for getting ill is totally unfair.
WhySeaEm pupils are not being punished for being ill. It's rewards for more students, those that simply turn up everyday. Schools try to see positives. It is a tangible reward.
Is not rewarding really the same as punishing now?
Maybe a suitable 'punishment' would be you add up all the days you miss off school throughout the year and you are required to catch they up at the start of the summer holidays! (Although obviously that can't happen.) Then everyone can have a certificate once they have completed their 190 days in the school year.
Its so when Ofsted or the LEA ask what we are doing to improve attendance, we can point at it.
It has nothing to so with anything else. It doesn't cross the kids' minds until they're in the assembly about it.
The only award my son ever got every year apart from one was 100% attendance so I'm all for it! And it has instilled in him the motivation to attend every day and every lecture at uni even the snow day on Friday and hopefully this will continue into the world of work. Attendance at work is vital and I know some teenagers who are miss days for very mild ailments which sets a bad example for their future. So I still think it's a worthwhile award. All awards are a bitunfair anyhow. Kids can't help the academic ability or sporting/ musical talent etc that they are born with.
I 100% agree with you we call it the 'I've not been ill' award.
At DD's school they have a school dog and the children are awarded time with him if they have 100% attendance for the month.
This month the whole class was given time to play with the dog and DD was sent to sit in a room by herself because she'd had tonsillitis the month before. She was so upset when she came home its a horrible system.
Doomhutch It doesn't cross the kids' minds until they're in the assembly about it. Except on these assembly days you can bet your bottom dollar that a number of the 100% students will be absent.
Some kids are really really proud of their 100% attendance.
I have to say, while there are of course kids whose parents only let them stay home if they are too ill to attend school, there are others who will let them stay home at the drop of a hat. Kids who have “flu like symptoms” one day every week for example. As soon as you say you’re monitoring this, a good proportion of them are suddenly in every day.
School dog sounds amazing! My DD would explode with excitement if her school acquired a dog.
Rubbish that your DD missed out through no fault of her own.
School dog is usually brilliant but it’s a shame when it’s used like this instead of for helping kids who are distressed or for kids to read to like it’s supposed to be used!
@PeasAndHarmony, that's really interesting. Please would you be able to point me in the direction of any HR research about this?
For those who have mentioned Ofsted, this is exactly what this exercise is - the school has been deemed to be RI for a second inspection running.
Thanks for all the responses.
Am a teacher : not had a day off ill for four years. has anyone thanked me? Nope. And I bloody well think they should.
Both my DSs have 100% attendance. DS2 has never been off ill and is 14 now. DS1 used to school refuse (terrible time and I empathise with other parents) but now has 100% attendance. This deserves recognition.
It is really rare to be so hale and hearty - and is an award that can go to anyone: it isn't dependent on brain power or being teacher's pet.
When I was a HOY I hand signed letter every term and often got emails thanking me for noticing.
There may not be evidence of much - but there is certainly evidence that low attendance impacts upon well being, achievement and future prospects. And many parents do not realise 90% (because as a figure that sounds high to manY0 attendance is actually really quite a lot of time off! That man in the IOW was bleating about his DD being on 92% and I thought 'back up there sunshine. That's shit!'
I'm afraid I worked for a MAT last year that did have an incentive for 100% attendance <for staff>... It even included missing a day for a funeral (presumably you'd have been okay if it had been your own ). My jaw dropped when I read it then re-read it to check I'd understood correctly.
They were not terribly good at managing pupil attendance, so it was totally the wrong target.
I do think attendance is important but I'm completely against punishing genuinely ill students and as for those with long term health conditions who need regular checkups, words fail me. You just need attendance officer(s) who are all over it: they're much more likely to be able to sort the wheat from the chaff and find those who stay off when they don't need to.
I did some analysis of my students one year and found a positive correlation between attendance and outcome against predicted grade (this was for year 13). It was weak, but it was there.
It bugs me that schools feel the need to celebrate it for students but don't bother to mention it to staff.
This Friday, the school I work at (freelance, for a couple of hours a week, but I was there for years - complicated - I now run my own thing at a theatre but go back to teach KS4 as they didn't bother to replace me when I left) is taking all the students who have 100% attendance this term on a trip to a local-ish shopping centre for the day. Seems an odd reward if you ask me - Christmas shopping day - essentially a day off. One of my year 10s has emailed me this evening to let me know that she is on the trip so can she have work to catch up with. Whilst this is LOVELY - she is a massively conscientious child, it seems like a bonkers thing to do - give them a day off as a reward for not having any days off, but insist that they catch up on the work missed...
As a teacher there, I don't think I ever had any time off - certainly not in the last 3 years, but it was never so much as mentioned. Now I run my own 6th form course and there's only me, so time off is not an option!
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