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