rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
[personal profile] rmc28
I opened a form letter from my children's school this morning, informing me that "Frederick"'s attendance is at 90%, significantly lower than the government target of 95%. It included this particularly threatening paragraph:

"You should be aware that regular attendance is a legal requirement and the Education Welfare Officer may become involved if there is no significant improvement in Frederick's attendance."

Now, I am absolutely a stroppy middle-class parent, whose response to bureaucratic threats like this is "come and have a go if you think you're hard enough". I am not at all concerned about seeing this off myself.  But that this is the system, that letters like this will be going out to parents without my resources and confidence, that the very first contact to parents on this issue contains implied threats of legal action and bureaucratic interference - that appalls me.

On closer inspection, it is not actually possible for me to "improve" my child's attendance in the remainder of the school year: they've calculated that 90% threshold assuming he has perfect attendance between now and July.  He cannot physically have any better attendance than he does now, the way they've calculated it.  So that threatening paragraph is also setting me up to fail.
ETA: I got that bit wrong - talking it through with my dad, I was getting confused between days-in-school-year and sessions-in-school year.  He's just completed 190 sessions, with an attendance rate of 90%; there's another 190 sessions to go, so if he achieves perfect attendance for the rest of the year, we'll get back up to that target 95%. Which together with the name thing makes me think this is some automated letter generation, because we've hit the halfway point.  It's still heavy-handed but it's not quite as awful as I first thought. /ETA

My child has a 90% attendance record, because I keep my children at home when they are ill, and he has been a bit more ill than usual this past school year.  It's stupid to pressurise parents to send ill children to school.  It doesn't benefit the sick child and it puts the rest of the school community at risk. Any children with lowered immunity will be much more at risk, and will then presumably have even worse attendance records. Lowered immunity is correlated with disability, chronic conditions, and poverty, so this is an access issue as well.

I know this is a system problem: government policy enforced under threat of poor Ofsted results.  I can't fix the system.  But I can try to make my local part better.  So I've got letters to write:
  • specific response about my child's attendance record 
  • letter to headteacher and governors about the wider issues of access, and the way parents are contacted
  • ... and then see what those result in, I suppose

Date: 2017-02-27 13:22 (UTC)
emperor: (Default)
From: [personal profile] emperor
...also your MP, if you have spare effort?

But, bah, how annoying :(

Date: 2017-02-27 13:45 (UTC)
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
From: [personal profile] davidgillon
I've seen a lot of similar complaints on the disablity groups I'm on. Including kids being refused permission to go on school trips because their attendance is less than perfect, in some of those cases it's less than perfect solely because of hospital appointments. I've even seen a parent say she was pressured to withdraw her child from that school for daring to complain.

I remind them the Equality Act 2010 applies, and the school can no more punish a child for disability related absence than an employer can an employee (though it doesn't stop a lot of them trying, sigh). And it's specifically illegal under EA2010 to threaten someone for raising a disability related issue. Unfortunately there's a lot of legally ignorant head teachers out there.

Date: 2017-02-27 13:46 (UTC)
jae: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jae
That is deeply fucked up.

-J

Date: 2017-02-27 14:45 (UTC)
bens_dad: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bens_dad
Schools also request that children be kept off school for 24/48 hours after (exposure to) sickness (eg norovirus).
If the school is penalising those who abide by that request, they will have to expect more children to go to school when liable to infect others.

-----
Does the letter make clear how much of the non-attendance was approved by the school ? If not the school may be failing to maintain an adequate register of attendance.

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/564599/school_attendance.pdf
and
http://childlawadvice.org.uk/information-pages/school-attendance-and-absence/

suggest that:

A school will authorise an absence if:
The child is too ill to attend and the school accepts this as valid. If the child is off for long periods the school might ask for proof from the doctor.
...
The child has a medical or dental appointment. [although these should be out of school hours where possible]
...

Date: 2017-02-27 15:20 (UTC)
aldabra: (Default)
From: [personal profile] aldabra
I think it's a legally mandated letter and the school has very little discretion once you've triggered it. We got a series of those, and then Legal Meeting 1, in a process where Legal Meeting 3 happens under police caution. It was all very alarming and stressful (and since the root cause of the problem was anxiety it didn't help).

But I think you're at a different school, and not even in the same federation, and the tone is very familiar indeed. I bet it's centrally drafted and the school is penalised by Ofsted if they can't demonstrate they're sending them out. (It would be nice if they also contacted you by back channels to say don't take it personally...)

AIRI the clock resets at the end of the year, and it takes a fair while before you trigger the meetings.

Date: 2017-02-27 15:55 (UTC)
aldabra: (Default)
From: [personal profile] aldabra
I think Legal Meeting 2 is when you get assigned the EWO. We had letters threatening jail time and fines before we got to Legal Meeting 1. I think we were about three years into bollocking letters before we had the meeting.

It's a very slow process, and designed on the assumption that if your child isn't in school it's because you're a scrote. Though I don't imagine even scrotes get less scrotelike when treated like that. I recommend talking to the low-level Student Services people who deal with the kids day to day, while minimising involvement with whichever set of Assistant Heads is named on the letter as responsible for discipline.

Date: 2017-02-28 16:39 (UTC)
deborah_c: (Default)
From: [personal profile] deborah_c
I was going to ask about that. This seems an entirely pointless exercise if they're worrying (or their database is sending otherwise unprovoked letters) about unavoidable absence that they knew about and approved of (or even required). Headdesk and sympathy

Frederick

Date: 2017-02-27 15:51 (UTC)
mair_in_grenderich: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mair_in_grenderich
... does the letter actually say "Frederick"? ):

Re: Frederick

Date: 2017-02-27 15:56 (UTC)
mair_in_grenderich: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mair_in_grenderich
Ah ... I hadn't realized it was actually his formal first name - while it's obviously quite poor, that's a slight improvement on what I thought: that they'd copied+pasted a letter from a different child without checking!

Date: 2017-02-27 16:21 (UTC)
sir_guinglain: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sir_guinglain
Oh, our silly, target-obsessed, over-generalising world.

Date: 2017-02-27 18:36 (UTC)
el_staplador: (Default)
From: [personal profile] el_staplador
A friend in Surrey has had what sounds like an identical letter.

Date: 2017-02-27 21:00 (UTC)
kotturinn: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kotturinn
A while back I asked my 'mole' in the school world about authorised/unauthorised absence. Attendance rate has a big part in OFSTED ratings. Part of the reply said "It only has serious consequences if attendance falls below 80% for the year without dr notes. Although schools will start issuing automatic warning letters at 90%. Schools will only raise serious concerns and push for action when they know absence is affecting a child's well being but they don't have full control over consequences of absence (unless the head is very good at playing the numbers)."

Date: 2017-02-27 19:51 (UTC)
andrewducker: (Default)
From: [personal profile] andrewducker
Oh for goodness sake! How hard would it be to have a "Must be at most 5% _unauthorised_ absences" rule???

Date: 2017-02-28 02:56 (UTC)
silveradept: A kodama with a trombone. The trombone is playing music, even though it is held in a rest position (Default)
From: [personal profile] silveradept
This sounds like the worst kind of bureaucratic inflexibility caused by a computer program that cannot be taught how to differentiate necessary categories.

Date: 2017-02-28 05:22 (UTC)
matgb: Artwork of 19th century upper class anarchist, text: MatGB (Default)
From: [personal profile] matgb
We had similar for H, even when I was working there and they knew she was ill, including when I was also off ill, it's not new but might be getting worse.

I wonder if the party has a policy about it and if not we should get one, becuas eit is bloody stupid to be scaring people into sending sick kids to school: we should be telling parents off for sending sick kids in not the other way around.

Date: 2017-02-27 21:40 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] amaebi.livejournal.com
You are a benefactor to your society.

Date: 2017-02-27 23:00 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] amaebi.livejournal.com
:D

Boy, don't I know how that goes.

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rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
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