That Time The School Attendance Letter Made Me Sob


School attendance is important. I get it! If the kids are missing school, they’re missing out on important lessons that are designed to set them up for life. I trained as a teacher and I’ve seen how tough it can be for a child to catch up if they’ve missed a key lesson.

All this I know and totally agree with.

But today I received a letter saying that my daughter’s school attendance is poor, and that poor attendance has a negative impact on children’s education… I burst into tears

I understand that it is school policy to alert parents if children fall below the 95% threshold… But the thing is, Jenny, 6, will never have good attendance.

A bit of background

My eldest daughter, Jenny, has complex medical needs. I don’t write about it much on my blog because I haven’t yet found the words to do justice to the nightmares we have lived through. She is under five hospital consultants and has had to undergo many surgical procedures, including one particular operation that lasted over 9 hours!

school attendance hospital bed wires machines

The first operation at just 3 months old

Being under that many consultants means lots of hospital appointments. It also means numerous scans and tests throughout the year to track progress and monitor developments.

Add to this the fact that it is a medical condition so she can be poorly for weeks at time, and the unpleasant side effects she sometimes gets from her medication; and you have a recipe for poor school attendance.

The 95% school attendance rule

I understand your reasoning – you want to treat everyone the same. Anyone who drops below 95% receives the same letter. You don’t want to show favouritism. A policy is a policy.

But the thing is – we’re not like everyone else.

I haven’t taken her out of school for a cheap holiday to Fuerteventura or Centre Parcs. I’m definitely not one of those overcautious mothers that keeps their kid off school for the slightest sniffle. I haven’t given in on the days when she just doesn’t want to go to school.

Every black mark is valid and accounted for.

We are not doing this on purpose. We want her to succeed even more than you do. Jenny actually loves school and is sad when she can’t come in. Believe me – if you saw her hooked up to those tubes and bleeping machines, you’d know she’d rather be in school.

school attendance bag shoes

Don’t tell me you’re concerned

I don’t want you to tell me that school is concerned. I’m worried enough myself. From the day we got the diagnosis, when she was a little 4 month old baby cuddled up in that scratchy hospital blanket, I’ve worried about it.

  • How will this condition impact her?
  • Will she be able to have a normal life?
  • Will it affect her schooling?
  • Will she be able to work?
  • Will this condition limit her?
  • Will she be accepted?
  • Will it affect her confidence?
  • Will she be happy?

Your letter is fuelling my fears and I can feel my insides constricting as I scan the words of your letter. Those familiar pangs of panic are rising within me and my mind starts racing.

I don’t want to know that you’re concerned. Please don’t tell me that you think her poor school attendance is going to affect her academic achievements. She’s already suffered so much in her life, and has been dealt such an unfair hand. Please don’t add this to the pile.

I want you to tell me that you’re doing everything you can to help her achieve her potential. I want you to remind me that exams are not everything and that she is doing remarkably well considering the extra obstacles in her way. I want you to reassure me that she still has plenty of time to catch up and her school career is still in its infancy.

But please, whatever you do, don’t tell me that you’re concerned about her school attendance…

31 Comments

Add yours
  1. 1
    Oldhouseintheshires

    Stupid rules and bonkers statistics…..drives me nuts. You are right to focus on your lovely girls achievements and not her attendance record. Lovely, thought provoking post. I’m commenting now because I’m working with my lovely 6 and 7 year olds tomorrow! #blogcrush

  2. 3
    Fi - Beauty Baby and Me

    Oh darling 🙁 First of all I am so sorry you’ve had to deal with such a difficult time with your little girl being poorly. I hope you are ok and if you ever want to chat please let me know. Secondly I think the school in question is douche! They must surely be sensitive here and make allowances. I think you should say something to them as it’s affected you and that’s not fair. All the love xxx #blogcrush

  3. 5
    Heather Keet

    Wow! I would expect the school to handle each family on a case by case basis and factor in things like special medical needs. To send a letter to someone who’s child is in and out of hospital is insensitive and makes me question their ability to adapt to the children’s individual needs. #BlogCrush

  4. 6
    Kate

    Such a moving post. Im sorry your school is not being sympathetic when things are hard enough for you anyway. I hope you can get them to understand your situation better. #BlogCrush

  5. 7
    Eric

    I know they have to have set standards and expect everyone to follow them, but it just doesn’t seem fair. My son needed open heart surgery when he was 5 days old. He sees a paediatric cardiologist once a year (now once every 2 years). He’s not missing as much time as your little one, but I hope the school is just sending that letter as a formality and they’ll be understanding to her circumstance.

  6. 9
    Heather Burnett

    Oh Lucy! I’m so sorry you are going through this! Nobody wants to see their child sick! Maybe the school will eventually stop the (hopefully) automated letters! I know how it feels to be treated like a number and it’s NOT OK!!!!

  7. 13
    The Fat Girl

    I work in a sixth form college as pastoral care and my primary role is attendance monitoring really. I have plenty of students who have low attendance for a reason and i am that front line between them and these letters. Im really sorry your daughter’s school didn’t think twice before sending this letter – not necessary at all just to tick a box. But mainly i’m really sorry to hear that your daughter has such a hard road, i really hope things get easier for her and all of you! #blogcrush

  8. 18
    Hayley@ Mission: Mindfulness

    This is why I despair at our education system – and I’m a blinking teacher!!!! This is computer generated stuff that if people just THOUGHT a bit before they send them out, they would realise how insensitive and unhelpful this is. Yes, some parents need to know this stuff but not there shouldn’t be ‘blanket policies’ on such matters. Schools are losing their human touch sometimes and this demonstrates this unfortunately. On a different note – I’m surprised they’re sending letters out for 95% – most schools would be sending letters out for well below 90% anyway…… (I know this isn’t helpful to you, but maybe puts into perspective a little). I’m so sorry to hear about your daughter’s complex medical issues. Lots of love xx #blogcrush

  9. 20
    Surrey mama

    I feel for you, it must be so hard! It feels as though you must have got a letter generated for everyone which didnt take Into account your circumstances which is ridiculous! So sorry that she has had to go through this all at such a young age and hope she’s able to be at school more as she grows. #blogcrush

  10. 22
    Clair

    I would be sending in a strong letter of complaint. I r had to raise a formal complaint last year. When doing so I set aside the emotion and just focused on the facts and backed them up with evidence. It worked.

    • 24
      Lucy At Home

      Thank you for leaving such a lovely comment, Nicole. We are certainly doing lots of praying for her and we are very gratefully that she is currently doing fantastically better than any of the doctors could ever have predicted!

  11. 25
    Helena

    I’m sorry to read of your child going through operations. Sometimes people act before they think. Could they send work home so when she is well she can do it or is there any other way? #BlogCrush

  12. 27
    Mrs Lighty

    I so feel for you on this. Whilst I can’t pretend to know what you’re going through, my Mum probably can. My brother was off school almost every other week due to an undiagnosed wheat intolerance which caused sickness and an upset tummy. He later was diagnosed with scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, and obviously had more time off because of the consequences of that. I think my Mum would’ve felt the same as you, although schools weren’t so quick to send such letters 25 years ago. She worried about his education, and his health. At 31, he is only 5’2″ tall, which has its own implications, but he’s doing ok. He trained in IT at college once his health problems were sorted, and now works in IT. So please try not to worry, I’m sure your little girl will catch up. Sending you hugs in the meantime though, I can’t believe the school aren’t more understanding xxx #blogcrush

    • 28
      Lucy At Home

      Thank you for the thoughtful comment and the encouragement. I keep reminding myself that, at age 6, she is still young in her school career. I just wish school weren’t trying to pile on the pressure.

  13. 29
    Wendy

    Aww Lucy, I am so sorry the school are not being more understanding, you would think they would be a bit more lenient with attendance knowing Jenny’s circumstances. Could you maybe have a meet9ng with them to talk things over? I didn’t realise you were going through all of this, if you ever need to talk you know where I am xx #BlogCrush

  14. 30
    Nic

    We’ve had a similar problem with my son this year. However his absence was the result of stress from a poorly managed bullying situation. It’s been so upsetting and the letters have compounded this.

  15. 31
    Harpreet

    Awww hun, i can imagine how exhausting it is looking after a child with special needs and then have the school send something like that. You are doing amazing so dont let something as trivial as that get you down. Unfortunately schools nowadays are more worried about their statistics rather than looking at individual situations which is damn straight unfair! Yes its probably a standard letter that goes out but i would make an appointment with the year head and explain that it wasnt right to send that when they know about her medical conditions and how they give her extra support for when she is at home. Chin up doll! You are an amazing mumma to get where you are and dont let anyone tell you otherwise!

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