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PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2014 10:36 am 
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Hi all, DD2 is 5 and attends a tiny local village primary, lovely caring cosy little school. However, the old HT has retired, and the replacement has arrived.
DD has a long catalogue of health issues, her attendance last year was low, but, she is I am told, very bright, and doing really well. The old head showed nothing but concern and admiration for her quick returns to school, and her ability to keep up.
However, the new HT has issued a letter stating that any child who has 90% attendance or less, must provide evidence of why they are off, or it will be classed as unauthorised! This term, she had 3 weeks off in total for 2 bouts of pneumonia, and was hospitalised for the 2nd one. She is only ever off school when she is in hospital, or very unwell. The rest of the time I dose her up and send her in. I don't understand why parents would be given free reign to keep their child off for any old sniffle, yet a child who has been extremely unwell, is required to give proof?!
For instance this week, nearly 3/4 of the class are off with the same sore throat bug DD now has, yet she is in school..but if she develops pneumonia on the back of this, I will have to provide written evidence from her doctor??
DH thinks it is absurd, and it's certainly not a policy I have ever heard of, has anyone here experienced similar?
What is your school's protocol on absence? It's distressing enough having a child who is often unwell without having the indignance of having to prove it too.


Last edited by mm23292 on Fri Mar 13, 2015 11:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2014 10:44 am 
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If a school has a policy then they have to implement it across the board.

Don't take it personally - the new HT is probably trying to impact on those parents who let their children have days off here and there for insignificant illnesses - but they can't be seen to discriminate, therefore your child has to abide by the same rules too. Doesn't look like it will be a problem for you to provide evidence of illness - and the "evidence" may just turn out to be a letter from you confirming that your child has been off sick (certainly we have to put it in writing/email if our child is absent from secondary school for ill health and notify school when they return) - just something like this may make people think twice about letting children have a day off for a sniffle.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2014 10:47 am 
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I can understand your concern, but I really don't think this about victimising those with real and ongoing health concern. However, in every school there are the odd children who's parents seem to keep them off for the slightest sniffle, or indeed in our school, the odd one kept off because they had a moan and mum couldn't be bothered to press the point. It's these that your new HT is trying to discourage, not your child with genuine health concerns.
If you look at this dispassionately, you can easily provide proof of sickness, with no great time or trouble. If it were me I might even ask for a friendly meeting or write a friendly letter, and outline your DDs health concerns as much as you feel comfortable with. Take some evidence just to feel you have it as back up, and calmly explain that you felt it was only right to let them know that your DD will by necessity at present, drop below the 90% mark. If you feel it's not too much you could assure them that you are not a parent who always keeps off at the slightest sniffle and that you will always judge and send your daughter in when you possibly can, but clearly you do not want to compromise her health. If you can manage to do this without sounding defensive and whilst maintaining a friendly meeting, then I am sure it can be sorted without any difficulty. In fairness, the government is very hot on absences and school measurements, and whilst his blanket approach has been a little clumsy, maybe give the new head a chance to prove their compassion and sense in an individual, friendly, meeting.
Good luck


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2014 10:47 am 
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Crossed messages with KCG but think we are in line in our views!


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2014 11:26 am 
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Thank you, and yes I totally agree with what you both say, I guess the sensitivity lies with the tact (or lack of it!) in which it was delivered. I know it would be wrong to respond in any way defensive, but I do for a fact know that many of the children take days here and there for the slightest little thing, even a restless night has warranted a day off for some! The 90% threshold does little to deter that complacency, in fact from what I've seen, it positively encourages it! Oh she's only had 3 days off this term...so she's allowed another day...it's the norm. A bit like the 2 week paid sick leave...so many employees consider it a threshold they have a right to meet, and it was funny how many people I have managed over the years who regularly 'took' their 2 weeks. Meanwhile a child who has had serious health issues, and diligently attends school many days below par..is highlighted for falling below the threshold. What does that achieve? Not a lot I think, other than to tick the appropriate box.
I know it's easy to get a letter drafted, although the receptionist did think it was a little odd. And I recall many times when she's been discharged, the hospital have confirmed her school so they could send a copy...perhaps that's not enough. I guess my feathers are a little bristled...just seems a flawed principle. Absence can be discouraged more effectively I think..and making parents with genuinely sick children feel like wannabe truants, is not terribly tactful either! Thanks for your comments :)

ps..Just noticed your comment Yamin, re the meeting. I had exactly that meeting at start of term, as previous HT had discussed DD's issues with her, teachers all well aware of her issues too, and all of it has been documented. They have medication forms upto date etc.., I always send them hospital apt dates in advance too, if anything I have been extremely informative. That's why I'm so surprised...


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2014 1:22 pm 
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mm23292 wrote:
I do for a fact know that many of the children take days here and there for the slightest little thing, even a restless night has warranted a day off for some! The 90% threshold does little to deter that complacency, in fact from what I've seen, it positively encourages it! Oh she's only had 3 days off this term...so she's allowed another day...it's the norm. A bit like the 2 week paid sick leave...so many employees consider it a threshold they have a right to meet, and it was funny how many people I have managed over the years who regularly 'took' their 2 weeks.
I don't know if I have just been lucky or led a sheltered life but I don't know any children whose parents kept them off school just because they hadn't had enough days off - far more likely in my experience that children who were much to unwell to go to school were sent in anyway because it suited parents better. I have even done it myself on occasion when mine were small and probably ought in hindsight to have been at home (though never with D+V - that would be mean). I also don't think most people ring into work sick very often when they aren't. Maybe a small group of people will always play the rules but I don't think it goes for too many; and on the school issue I spent a lot of time working with chronically sick children and schools were generally brilliant about their absence.

I have told my children to give thanks for their health and never pretend to be ill when they aren't - it is one issue on which I am happy to take the moral high ground. :roll: :D


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2014 2:39 pm 
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OP, this is probably all about government targets, I shouldn't let it bother you too much, just send a short email. The 'system' isn't really geared to DCs who have continual (continuous?) health problems but who aren't as chronically sick as the children Amber worked with.

We had this when DD started at secondary school, and I did have to remind them on a fairly regular basis exactly why her attendance record was usually below 90%. It's a bit tiresome but I took the view that because the school was a good one in most other respects then helping them tick that particular box was a price worth paying. Better that than these blooming ridiculous attendance awards where children get rewarded for simply showing up!


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2014 3:30 pm 
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92% is the 'acceptable' level for a school (I think). Otherwise it impacts on their data and therefore their ratings in tables.

The new head won't know your daughter and I agree that it is a little (lot) heavy handed. I would write a letter detailing DD's issues with health and explain that proof every time that she is hospitalised will add to family stress.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2014 4:10 pm 
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Mmmm ... I wouldn't get annoyed and I'd just go along with it but it is a bit pathetic. This is what the DfE told me last week:


The Government has not set a level for absence; i.e. what is an acceptable level. We expect schools to address all types of absence from the odd day off here and there to persistent absence. We have made it clear that absence from school should only occur due to exceptional and unavoidable circumstances.

The Government wants all pupils to succeed and reach their full potential. We believe that continuity of education is fundamental to pupils; successfully following a programme of study around set term dates, and consolidating their newly acquired knowledge or skills, before progressing to more complex theories is crucial. Pupils simply cannot do that if their structured school terms are disrupted by preventable absences. Evidence shows that pupils who attend school regularly achieve better than pupils who miss too much school.

Unnecessary disruption to a planned programme of study means pupils loose out, fall back and often find it hard to catch up. It also creates extra work for teachers to support pupils who have missed important lessons. Pupils attending school regularly and being punctual to their lessons not only benefit from their learning but by following school rules they are developing core skills that will put them in good stead for future employment.

Where a pupil’s absence is authorised, this means that the school has either given approval in advance for a pupil to be away, or has accepted an explanation offered afterwards for justification of the absence. Whilst schools cannot apply a sanction for authorised absence, where attendance deteriorates schools should prevent this worsening or pupils becoming persistently absent. Interventions should be built around the needs of individual pupils and their families to address any underlying causes of absence.

Where a pupil’s absence is unauthorised, this means that the pupil is absent without the school’s permission. In such cases the parent can be given a penalty notice by the school or the local authority can prosecute the parent. A parent is required by law, to ensure their child of compulsory school age who is registered at a school, attends school regularly. The Courts have interpreted regular attendance as a child being in school every day it is open for education. If a parent fails to secure their child’s regular attendance at school they are guilty of an offence under section 444 of the Education Act 1996.



A school with a low attendance record may however be scrutinised by Ofsted, particularly if the attendance record is below the national average.



The school probably just has a very out of date Education Welfare Officer who likes this blanket approach that probably does nothing useful for the real offenders but makes it look like they are doing something.

I am sure you haven't been singled out - more just that it's quicker to apply a blanket rule to everyone than to bother thinking about which people to seriously address it with. Our school once put nasty comments on the child's Christmas report about absence. So a poor kid who was truly sick loads that term including in the half-term, instead of getting a nice comment about how well she had done while she was at school, instead got some stupid comment from the head about trying to improve her attendance.

Said head cared nothing about the academic side of things really ---- just trying to look like she did the right thing. Said as much when asked why she did it --- "because that is what the Education Welfare Officer told me to do".


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2014 4:28 pm 
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Was this just a letter that went to all parents?
I understand why you feel 'got at' but the only way a school can enforce rules is if they are universal.
I,m sure the way forward is to meet with the Head and find a way to fulfill the statutory requirements without adding to your stress. Sadly there are lots of other families in similar positions so there must be an accepted method of providing 'evidence'.
While the Head is no doubt concerned about unauthorised absences it is also unlikely he would want sick children in school or to put pressure on you to send your DD back before she is properly recovered.


I do hope your DD has less health problems as she gets older and hopefully stronger.


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