St Albans parents give us their views on school attendance rewards

St Albans parents are not sure whether attendance rewards are fair on children. Picture: Matt Adams

St Albans parents are not sure whether attendance rewards are fair on children. Picture: Matt Adams - Credit: Archant

After a national petition was launched to ban school attendance rewards, the Herts Ad spoke to some St Albans parents to get their views.

In a bid to hit Ofsted targets, many schools offer prizes and certificates for attendance - but does this exclude children who have chronic time off due to illness?

Following the launch of a national petition to ban school attendance rewards, we asked local parents for their views.

Father Simon Harris, who founded Facebook page Man Behaving Dadly, is behind the campaign, which so far has received the support of more than 3,800 people.

He said: "I think the whole concept is mad. Since the petition went online I have had so many comments from parents saying they agree with me. They tell me their kids have had cancer treatment and they've then had to explain why they're not getting an attendance reward. Children should not be penalised for being unwell."

Some schools give certificates for excellent attendance, whereas others offer class rewards such as an extra long playtime for the class with the best attendance during the week.

Other systems include children being entered into a raffle for full attendance throughout the year.

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As part of Ofsted assessments, attendance comes under the category of 'behaviour and attitudes' judgement. Good and outstanding categories deem that "pupils have high attendance, come on time to school and are punctual to lessons".

As school leadership teams often focus their policies and strategies around the Oftsted framework, resulting in the promotion of good attendance.

Many St Albans parents agree with Simon's petition.

Michelle Marsh said: "Nice idea if they [rewards] weren't just given to students who get 100 per cent. It's not possible for every child. If you go home sick and you lose the chance then it's unfair."

Kathleen Kiff said: "It seems all schools penalise children for being ill, my granddaughter has regular appointments at GOSH and all the school can focus on is the amount she's off school."

Sarah Gidden said: "I don't like them because you certainly don't want ill children in school spreading germs because they are worried they won't get the certificate. Children are human beings not robots."

Jenni Scott agrees too: "My kids' school gives a certificate. But don't get me started on how unfair it is. My little one has a disability meaning lots of hospital appointments so she's never going to get a reward from school. They should recognise punctuality rather than attendance."

Mum Helen Wills said: "It's a horrible practice designed as a quick fix for an Ofsted tick-box. What is really needed is for schools to pursue families who regularly don't send their kids in for no reason, and to support those who find it a challenge. But they don't have the resources to do it."

Rhiannon Harris added: "Plus it's rarely a child's choice if they come to school, the parents decide so it's odd children get rewarded anyway!"

Some parents are unsure of what the solution is.

William Hewison said: "Punish poor attendance if it's not with good reason. Rewarding attendance sets a precedent for similar during working life where good attendance is reflected in your pay.

"So not sure of the way forward with this. Children should be taught that good attendance is essential."

Sheryl Clifton thinks it is her role to ensure her kids attend school. She said: "I don't like it. It's my job to get them to go to school."

Karen Llewellin thinks that attendance rewards are fine: "I don't really have an issue with it. We are all born with different genetic traits. Some of us are born good at maths, some are good at sport and some might just be good at not being sick and getting good attendance."

Mum Tammie Doherty also thinks her daughter deserves to be rewarded for her attendance. She said: "My daughter is now in Year 6 and has never had a day off since the age of four. She has only had a couple of certificates which I don't think is rewarding her enough!"

Despite contacting various district schools to gauge their feelings on the use of attendance rewards, most declined to comment.

However, headteacher Margaret Chapman of St Albans Girls' School said: "We recognise all young people as individuals and celebrate their successes during the academic year."

Terry Douris, cabinet member for education, libraries and localism, said: "Ensuring a good education for all children in Hertfordshire is vitally important to us and we always try to work with parents and schools to improve pupils' attendance, participation and outcomes in education. We work directly with children, families and schools to do this and to ensure that the education provided suits the needs of the child.

"If there are concerns about a child's attendance, the school will try and resolve them first, but if they can't, our team will try and work in partnership with parents and schools to resolve any difficulties that are preventing the child attending fully. Our local authority attendance officers visit schools regularly and offer advice and guidance, both at a whole school level, and for individual cases. In some circumstances we may issue, on behalf of schools, a penalty notice to parents. Our priority is to ensure a pupils full attendance so they can achieve the best possible education."