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!
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.
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…