I read an article this week that raised an issue I’ve been frustrated over for some time now. Why do we insist on punishing children for things out of their control?
This article spoke of children being penalised for being off sick from school – not being allowed on trips, being shamed for having attendance below 98% and basically being taught that ill health is a weakness. Surely if someone is actually physically or mentally ill they should not be at school but recovering at home?
My son is in his final year of Secondary School and has the carrot of Prom attendance tangling over him “if he can keep his attendance above a certain level he can go” – what is that about? Isn’t prom these days a rite of passage for young people?
Of course, I understand that attendance is important at school and can be a real issue. However, as a parent of young people who struggle to fit in sometimes and who need extra nurturing I also know that even getting them through the gates some mornings can be a challenge.
Children who have long term illnesses should not be subjected to further hardship by being excluded from trips and extra-curricular activities because of something out of their control. It just feels barbaric to add more punishment on their young lives.
The underlying message to me in this approach is that if a child has any vulnerabilities; whether physically, mentally, emotionally or socially, then they are at a disadvantage to others who are fortunate not to have those challenges yet.
Yet another way of adding punishment and shame on top of the trauma they may have already experienced.
I came across a video on something similar recently from America – take a look, it’s a strong message to remember those who may not have the same advantages as others.
The challenge for Senior Leaders is to please reconsider your policies around attendance. Surely there can be some allowances made for those who are struggling to come into school due to physical or emotional needs.
For the rest of us let’s just try and look at relieving the anxieties of those children around us instead of behaviour modification. If a child’s struggling to come into school – why? How can we help them overcome those obstacles?