The newspapers this week are full of reports about schools offering ridiculous prizes (incentives) for 100% school attendance.
Quite apart from the cost to cash strapped schools, I think this is a terrible idea. I believe it is totally driven by Ofsted, box ticking and image obsession, rather than any genuine care for a pupil’s education (or pastoral best interests).
Is this all about naughty kids?
I think so yes. Good parents (and their kids) won’t need pushing to go to school, they’ll be there. Special needs kids or the average kid who gets ill, should NOT be punished for HAVING to take the occasional day off school. These reward schemes only focus on nudging kids and parents who aren’t bothered about school, to go to school. But how does this scheme challenge them to apply themselves once in school?
If a kid is only going to school in order to get a free tablet, how does that help anyone? What kind message is this sending out about education? That it’s only attendance that matters, not educational attainment. There are kids that I know of that go to school every day but are disruptive. They go every day, cause trouble and disrupt the class but ‘100% attendance, here’s a prize‘. How does that look to the kids who are actively trying to learn and achieve? That, it’s just about being there, that it’s just about getting the iPad or voucher and not the education.
This is highly suggestive to me that it’s only about box ticking. It is not about kids pastoral care which in my opinion is also as important (if not more so). Schools should be more than their ‘image’ and being exam factories.
How do the rest of the children view this reward system?
There is the kid who studies hard, is top of his class but he got chicken pox and had to take time off school. Not only is this child and their parents getting hassled by the school for being ill ( no fault of their own), they now get punished for educationally achieving (because that’s how they’ll see it) while seeing the naughty kids get rewarded just because they turned up and went through the motions.
There’s the autistic kid who HAS to have time off school. You ARE punishing that child by telling him he/she is naughty for having autism and not being in every day. The scheme may not be intended to have that effect but it is the result.
There’s the kid who has a medical condition and HAS to have time off school. You’re punishing that child by telling him he/she is naughty for being ill and not being in every day. The scheme may not be intended to have that effect but it is the result.
Or the kid who has a day off at the beginning of term and then feels like there is no point trying for the rest of the year? Kids are very reward and punishment based and this is how they do see such schemes.
Should we really be encouraging kids to come into school ill?
Schools are forcing children to come in ill and thus pass on their illness to other children and then punishing those children and their parents for being ill, which they caused in the first place. All because your because your Ofsted attendance report is more important to you than pupil welfare (which is what all of this boils down to).
I say this to head teachers.
If schools really want to foster competition and reward attendance, why not have some inter class rivalry on a points system, where attendance does count towards points but is not the be-all of getting the reward? That way the kids who need to miss some school don’t feel singled out through no fault of their own and they can contribute in other ways to points for their class ,through behaviour, achievement and other criteria.
And the parents/kids you just can’t get to school? There are already laws in place to deal with persistent truancy, feckless parents and those who just can’t be bothered. Stop punishing the rest of the kids who are trying their best and engaging just because they NEED to miss the occasional day off school.
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