Rambling Rants; Schools and Absence.

I will admit it I’m not one for rule following, authority fearing or such. My eyes roll whenever I hear adults saying they aren’t allowed to do something (within reason, obviously, we need some laws to keep the nutters in check). Truth is I never have been, as a child I always found myself having very different views to the majority of other children. I would play with the children others would not, refusing to let their words of discouragement deter me. Refusing to listen if told I couldn’t pee when I needed to. Many a day were spent in the headmaster’s office writing out lines with my ten pencils sellotaped together, yes, I was that child, defiant, but in a sort of justice warrior way, disagreeing with procedures and policies if I thought they were unfair or unrealistic in expectation. This mostly boded well, much to the annoyance of teachers who eventually “caved” under my will to stand up for myself and others. Fast forward quite a few years and I have my own children to which I have the job of bringing up to be responsible compassionate people who know their own mind and aren’t afraid to voice their opinion. Well, that’s what hope for them anyway. Do they have a hope in this education system?

A text is received from children’s my school, please check bags for important attendance letters. Oh joy, I think to myself. Later that day a letter turns up from my children’s school, here we go again. Its a letter containing attendance in the last school term. My daughter has already opened it thinking it was about the school trip they are going on, but far from being the delightful news of a trip to the sea-life centre, the letter printed on bright red paper, contained some very threatening words. ‘That’s so rude” my daughter declares before I’ve even had a chance to read it. This is an excerpt from the letter…

“From the start of the school year in September <daughter name> attendance percentage is 85.51%. This is unacceptable and needs your urgent attention (bold capital letters for added effect).”

…I can feel my heat rising in my cheeks, and by the end of the letter, I’m surprised my hair hasn’t quite literally caught fire.  

The next paragraph seems like I’m being told off like some naughty… oh wait…

<daughter’s name> is currently in the red group with an attendance percentage below 90% and is now categorised as a “Persistent Absence Pupil” by the local authority. The education welfare worker monitors each child’s attendance on a regular basis and if your child is of compulsory school age you could face court proceedings. Unless there are exceptional circumstances, all children should be in the green group.

Hmm, interesting… I wonder how many hoops you will have to jump through to actually take me to court? It’s an idle threat. I can see that, but some won’t, some will worry, some will worry that they will have to face some sort of confrontation or prosecution if they don’t, they will start taking children to school poorly, the child will feel like crap and obviously spread illness to others and yet more people will be off poorly, great plan! What utter ridiculousness! I’m angry and I can feel a facebook rant coming on!

Behind the red letter is another letter listing out absences and whether they are authorised/unauthorised/late/medical/just couldn’t be arsed to come in today (ha ha) and about 20 other variables which I can’t be bothered to write out but you get the gist. My daughter has 0 unauthorised absences, meaning I have contacted the school every time to let them know she was unwell and would not be attending. That she will not be sat on a beach eating ice cream or playing at the park having good old jolly at the expense of getting an education. So that means that the school have sent me and my husband a threatening letter because my child was poorly. I’ll let that sink in. Ah, there it is, there’s an acceptable amount of time to be poorly… It’s a shame germs haven’t quite grasped this. I’m sorry bugs but I’m over my acceptable illness limit this term, please bog off now. Wouldn’t that be great!! Give all the “never” poorly children a certificate for being fortunate and not getting ill… *face palm*

Isn’t it just those type of messages that isolate, let’s say, disabled people and prevent them from getting jobs or being included in wider society. Wonder where those messages start oh yes… back to school…

Far from what I’d like them to do with the letter ( shove it where the sun doesn’t shine ). I shall be seeing the head teacher to make my point heard. Before you all yell, “it’s not her fault”, I know it’s not her directly… that she isn’t some overly dominating headmistress who is hell-bent on pissing people off. I know its happening in almost every school up and down the country. I know it’s adhering to compulsory box-ticking, target hitting and unrealistic expectations of perfectionism but, and it’s a big but… wouldn’t it be good if people started standing up for what is right for a change, refusing to follow idiocy…? That starts with those working in education. Stop worrying about losing their jobs, to stop worrying that they will be seen to be upsetting the apple cart and actually do something to instil some change? That takes guts I know, but if everyone pulls together and co-operates? I want to suggest a few home truths about power and responsibility. You can either rule by fear or you can rule by leadership and co-operation.
Talking of co-operation, what are we actually taught in schools? Are we taught compassion, co-operation, working together as a team for the good of everyone? The answer is, unfortunately, no. Most school’s basis for achievement is based on competitions, competing against someone else to make you feel like you are somehow better. How does this bode well for future societies when its indoctrinated into our children who are young and impressionable. Keeping up with the Jones’ comes to mind! Oops, I’m getting too political with our capitalist society which encourages greed. We all do it, I’m sure, more than likely without even thinking.

I’ll provide an example of this competitive capitalism which is currently at play in our school. Every day my children have to say the method of travel they use to get to school. There is a point scheme, walking or cycling gets the most points,  park and stride some points and by car, no points. You get the idea. The children compete against other classes to get the most points and the children who walk the most get certificates in assembly. I find this irritating for a number of reasons.

  1. This will never be a fair competition because people live different distances from the school. Sally who lives opposite school walks every day because she is about 15ft from school, Bob occasionally walks say for, 15 mins three days a week and Fred lives 10 mins in car journey away so comes by car every day. Some children’s parents are going to work straight after drop off and so do not have the time to walk. There are far too many variables here.
  2. Why are children competing for something they (mainly) cant control? It’s the parents who bring the majority of children to school thus the parents decide how they get there.
  3. Are the staff taking part? Do the staff walk in? How many staff come by car? What’s good enough for the children is good enough for the staff right?

Now, I’m all up for being environmentally friendly, anyone who personally knows me, knows this! My dissertation at university was on waste management and environmental studies. But this is in my honest opinion, by far the worst way to get children to be more environmentally friendly, and is at the expense of being co-operative. Why have the school decided to make this a competition between classes and people? How about they educate about how and why we should be environmentally friendly to benefit everyone as a whole. Give certificates and praise for teamwork in environmentally friendly activities. By all means, encourage the children to walk but don’t make it a competition. Competition, the very reason we actually have environmental problems in the world. We are rewarding children for trying to be “better” than other people and at the expense of the environment. Think about that.

Back from my tangent… Whilst I’m with the head, I’d like, in a non-patronising way, to suggest some ways to reduce illness because lets be honest no-one really likes being unwell. I’ll be suggesting she cleans the filthy classrooms the children spend all day in (we go in occasionally for activity days and get to see the children in their school environment). The toys, books, pens and puzzles are covered in black grime, the rugs the children sit on in reception are disgusting and what is with handing out unwashed unpeeled carrots for the kids to eat, especially as they haven’t washed their hands before eating. Do they have a cleaner? Oh, and what about actually letting some natural daylight in to the room so the children get some vitamin D, in fact what about letting them outside in the fresh air to hone their microbiomes, pick flowers and find cloud animals? Ok too far, the hippie in me is coming out, but, how about we educate them on how virus’ are spread, washing hands, using a tissue and don’t get me started on the appalling school dinners. Burgers and smiles anyone? One day they had a cheese pasty, how is that a healthy well balanced school dinner? Must not forget the obligatory sweetcorn, peas or beans vegetable option. Sigh! I can hear Jamie Oliver squirming with distaste.

But hey instead of maybe dealing with these issues that stem from school, and addressing the failing standards which result in an infested incubation of germs, let’s blame the parents, after all, it’s easier.




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