Why rewarding 100% attendance can be damaging

It was meant to have been a dream holiday celebrating the birthday of my parents. It had been booked for a year and we were going as a family. The first three days were magical but on day three, the worst happened: my mum was taken to hospital with gallstones that had caused pancreatitis and for 48 hours things were touch and go with her life. Tes reports.

Long story short, our plans had to change and I and my children were a week late home and we had to leave my mother and father at the airport. It meant my eldest son and I missed one week of school.

That was until a month later. In my son’s book bag came a brown envelope. Inside this was the notification that my eldest son was being put on intervention for attendance.

What I do want to discuss is what it tells us (and, in turn, our pupils) about what is important in life and the damage I feel it may (depending on how it’s managed) cause.

Rewards can work well for some students and good attendance has been proven to aid grades. In fact, the Department for Education published a report on the link between absence and attainment in key stage 2 and KS4 in March 2016 and found that “pupils with no absence are 1.3 times more likely to achieve level 4 or above, and 3.1 times more likely to achieve level 5 or above, than pupils that missed 10-15 per cent of all sessions”.

So pupil’s attendance seems to have some correlation with attainment, and wanting the best for our pupils means we need to monitor, act and react when pupils are missing a considerable amount of school.

But I believe attendance is only really an issue at the extremes. I would prefer to see good interventions and aid for those who struggle rather than an iPhone given as a prize at the end for 100 per cent attendance for one pupil picked out of a hat (I worked in a school that did this).

And my concern is that it teaches pupils that work is more important than wellbeing. When we only celebrate those at the top (and at times only one of those at the top whose name happened to be drawn from a hat), we are saying that if you took a day off because you were sick then you have done something negative.

If you are ill and need to recover/be ill, then stay at home. If you are struggling mentally, seek help and take time off. If you have a sick child, look after them. If your child has a one-off important play at school and they will be looking out for you in the crowd, go.

Read the full article Why rewarding 100% attendance can be damaging

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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