By Laura George
It’s the 100% attendance award debate. Firstly, now I have waded headstrong into the tide I am going to backtrack a bit and retreat to the shallows for a bit of a paddle. I don’t really want to discuss individual schools and if they do the 100% attendance awards at the end of the year and if it is strictly right or wrong (I teach RS, I spend most of my days playing Devil’s advocate being neutral on the fence!) or if it is better to adapt for individual needs. I see the merit in both sides of the argument. 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.
I am under little impression that if England’s educational inspectors were not looking at attendance as a big factor that 100% wouldn’t be such a big thing (a bug I have against OFSTED) and may not get as big celebration at the end of year (I know it would be celebrated, as it should, but maybe not to the degree). So why do we do it?!
Attendance is important, but only at the extremes that it may cause an issue or a problem for learners and every learner (as we well know) is different. 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% attendance for one pupil picked out of a hat (I worked in a school that did this).
But what does it mean for what we teach our pupils? My concern is that it teaches pupils that work is more important than well-being. 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.
Isn’t that what is wrong with the traditional UK ideas towards work?
I find so often now that work gets prioritised over the important things in life in the UK that just doesn’t happen in other countries that have a higher level of population well-being. I just worry that we are keeping this unrealistic focus as work being more important than anything else…and I don’t think it’s healthy.
If you are ill and need to recover/be ill, stay 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. I think we should encourage this as a nation…not the “100% no matter what” mentality. Obviously, if it is not possible, do what you can. But employers, society and schools should be promoting health and wellbeing ‘as well as’ good attendance.
I have worked in schools that also did the 100% award for staff and it did not go down very well with those who had different valid reasons for not having the 100% If we as adults can feel this imagine the pupils that might be in this case too (especially if it were a parent/doctor who said they had to stay home).
So maybe what I am saying is, celebrate good attendance, even perfect attendance. But maybe also celebrate those who look after themselves and promote well-being too. The ability to strive for the best but know when to quit, and when that is better for mind and body.
Laura George @Mrs_Educate is a teacher of 7 years who has worked in both the state comprehensive and grammar school sector. Now working at an independent Prep. school.
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