I have received a text from school, and I'm seething. And most probably over-reacting! Please expect high levels of sarcasm.
Attendance awards, a prize draw for all those children who are lucky enough not to be ill, whose attendance records aren't marred by whichever weakness has overcome their ability to present themselves in school each and every day.
Children are being rewarded for something which is outside of their control. How does this teach our children anything? If anything it proves that schools are wanting high attendance at all costs, nothing matters more than your child being in school.
Would it not be more productive to introduce an award that will motivate children? Something they could actually achieve and feel good about themselves? Something that is fair across the board and accessible to all students?
The prizes this year are vouchers. Last year children battled to stay healthy to win a kindle (a reading type, not a tablet type, so actually the children weren't too bothered to win it, but still, it's the principal!).
Amongst the scivers, sorry, students who didn't attain greatness, ahem, have acceptable attendance, that should read, are children who carelessly succumbed to the nasty cold doing the rounds before Christmas (I had it between Christmas and new year and barely surfaced for the week!), the tummy bug that felled many of the weaklings, sorry, students, the poor unfortunates daft enough to choose to be chronically ill.
No matter what their attitude in school, contribution to peers, effort given, if you're ill, you don't qualify.
Am I alone in believing this to be utterly ridiculous? What next? Reward children for being the correct body shape? Right hair colour? For having blue eyes? They're largely down to luck and genetics too after all, so why not?
This year PDA boy will miss out as his anxiety has meant approximately fifteen days off school so far. Despite our government's assurances that mental health in this country's young population will be taken seriously, it is still viewed as the child opting out or being pandered to when they are too unwell to be in school for anything other than physical reasons. Due to the nature of his disability (that's right, a disability, he is in no way choosing to be so anxious that he can barely function), school refusal is something that can be avoided when careful support is put into place, taking into account the complex nature of PDA coupled with the masking, which despite outward appearances does NOT mean that he is coping. Sadly though, because support is largely based on apparent needs, PDA boy was allowed to get to the point where school refusal was unavoidable.
This term there's been an apprehensive, wobbly return to school for PDA boy. The announcement of attendance awards has increased the anxiety, and added to his low opinion of himself. He doesn't perform well academically due to anxiety. His behaviour isn't fantastic, due to autism, anxiety and sensory issues. His homework....well the least said about that the better! And now he can add attendance to the list of things he feels he is failing at.
There are many areas where he does shine though, he can be very kind and thoughtful, particularly to his neurodiverse peers, he is good at sports, he is funny.
There are so many decent human qualities that can be focused on amd awarded for all students, ones that can be worked towards by anyone in the school, ones that are attainable to all children, no matter how unacademic, non-sporty and unhealthy they are, ones that would encourage people to be nicer to each other and care for each other, encouraging worthy attributes.
I would like to add to this, having read some feedback, that indeed this is not a lash-out at my children's school, attendance awards are commonplace now. More and more pressure is put on schools by the government, asking the impossible of teachers who in turn, reluctantly, must ask the same of their students. I haven't met one teacher who is happy about the developing situation within education, or who feels that the government are making the right choices, but ultimately it is our children who will suffer the most, who are suffering record levels of mental illness. Attendance awards are another sign of priorities gone wrong.