OK, it's been a while since I had a good old fashioned rant about something, but this one's been brewing for a while...
In your opinion, are fines from schools/education welfare justified and reasonable? Is a £60 fine reasonable for poor attendance? Is a £60 fine reasonable for repeat lates? Also, should you really not be able to take your child(ren) for a short holiday in term time?
Firstly, I'm going to talk about the fines for being off school ill and how this has personally affected me.
Well, we have had fines on more than one occasion for our son being off school ill. I must point out, we'd never keep him off with a sniffle, we keep him off only when he is genuinely too ill to go to school. We are due to go into his school again next week regarding his poor attendance. But I feel that poor attendance is based on a statistic - should children or adults be classed as a statistic? Because, let's face it, everyone is different, whether school/education welfare/governments admit it or not. So because the average child is able to attend school 95% of the time, does that mean all children should be able to?
When I was a child, I was off school ill quite a lot, much of which was caused by my asthma amongst other childhood illnesses - I was genuinely ill a lot of the time, this for me continued into adult life and I still get ill a hell of a lot more often than the average person. My husband on the other hand, he's always been in really good health, he very rarely gets ill at all. It's unusual if he gets a cold in a year - the most ill I've seen him since we met is a couple of days whereby he had a stomach bug! Our son, seems to be just like me though, he is ill a lot and ends up at the doctors more times than I care to mention. Maybe me and him have lower immune systems or something, I don't know, but there must be a reason why we get so ill, so much more often.
But the school/education welfare do not see it that way - because all they ever look at is statistics, rather than treating each child as the individual that they are. The last time the person from the education welfare visited us, she basically said something along the lines of "well the doctor must be wrong" - I'm sorry but do you happen to have a medical degree then? I thought not! Initially, they said we should always take him to the doctors when is ill so we have proof for them that he is ill, so we did as they said and apparently that's still not good enough! If the doctor is saying he is too ill to be at school, well that's good enough for me and I think it should be for them as after all, I'm pretty sure none of them have a medical degree!
In my opinion, those people who send their children in when they are ill are selfish - you are sending your child to spread germs around the school to all of the other children, one or more of those children may end up significantly more ill than your child was thanks to your selfishness! The school's don't help either - my son's school incentivises coming into school no matter how ill with the chance to win an iPad Mini at the end of the school year if your attendance is perfect! Even doctors say that schools are to blame for children being ill so often, as they demand children go in with all sorts to pass it on to everyone else. In fact, seeing as they love statistics so, if you look at the statistics for how quickly germs spread in this country, it's a lot higher than some other developed countries - in my opinion, this is because children spread germs like nobody's business! It's not their fault, especially young children aren't as careful with their hygiene as senior school age children or adults (though a lot of them are poorly educated too and are as bad as little kids when it comes to hygiene - honestly, the looks you get sometimes when you're out and about and going to eat and bring out some hand sanitiser before you touch your food, it's like forbidden fruit!), so one selfish person sends in their child with something or other and a few days later, everyone has it!
So, should children be treated as a statistic, or should each case be looked at individually before the school.education welfare decide on giving out a fine or worse? Because, I would feel much more fairly treated if they stopped treating my son as a statistic - stopped saying that because he isn't an average person when it comes to illness, that we must be keeping him off for no good reason, and actually look at the circumstances on an individual basis.
Right, onto the fines for being late to school. I only heard about this today, but apparently they are going to charge you a £60 fine if your child is late more than 10 times in 12 weeks (i.e. the equivalent of 2 out of the 12 weeks) - do you think this is fair?
Well again, a look at each child's/parents circumstances is important I think. And also, by how much they are late - yes being late is disruptive, but there's a difference between 1 minute late and 1 hour late. Occasionally, my son gets there late - well literally just as the school gates are closing and has to go in through the office, this gets him marked as late, but in reality, the other kids haven't even gone into class or settled by this point, so I'd hardly say that was causing disruption. It is very, very rare that he is more than 5 or 10 minutes late, but he is very hard to motivate to get going in the morning - both me and my husband are not morning people at all, we always manage to get up early for school though and wake him and try and prompt him along, but sometimes he just can't get going. Sometimes I put this down to illness - as I know he sleeps bad in the night sometimes and walks around sleepy looking all day long, but he still goes to school, he has to, but on those days in particular it's very hard to get him to wake up, get out of bed, have breakfast and get ready for school and get there on time. He's 11 years old, I'm not going to barge into his room and dress him, throw him over my shoulder and carry him to school! I can try to inspire, encourage and even tell him off, but if that doesn't work, how is fining me going to help him get there on time? On the days he is ill, but goes to school, but has slept bad in the night, I don't really think that is something they should fine you for though. At the end of the day, he's there even though he really looks beyond worse for wear.
I think fines aren't really a good punishment anyway for lateness. If a child is late for school because they have stood around in the shop or chatting to their friends or something, then yes, punish them, give them detention or something deemed appropriate. I'm not sure fining the parent(s) is the way to go though. Particularly with senior school children, most go to school on their own, so the parent wouldn't know. And they may say, well you should take them to school and make sure they get there on time - that's a fair enough idea, but... What if they take themselves to school and their parent(s) go to work, I'm not sure their parent(s) boss(es) would appreciate them saying they'd have to come in to work an hour later as they had to walk their teenager to school every morning!
A single parent with 4 children of different ages, may well struggle to get their children to school on time due to the sheer lack of help, should he/she be punished for this with a fine? Or should their individual circumstances be looked at? Again, should the children be looked at on an individual basis and not just as a statistic?
Right, finally, onto the ban from taking your children out of school in term time for a holiday - do you think this is right?
As long as your child(ren) have good attendance, it used to be at the school's discretion as to whether they could have an holiday of up to 14 days during term time, but now, they say you're not allowed to at all.
Right, this one hasn't particularly affected us, but some people work hard year round, but may only be able to afford a family holiday in term time, as let's face it, especially with these new rules, the price of an holiday during school holidays is going to zoom up even higher than it already was! Should the hard working parent(s) be unable to take a short holiday with their child(ren) during term time when they can actually afford a holiday? Don't they deserve it? And would it really make that big a difference to their learning?
When I was young, at my schools (both primary and secondary), there were a lot of Muslim children, I remember some of them being granted (on more than one occasion) 2 or 3 months at a time off to go back to their country and visit their family - hardly seems fair, that children from this country in the first place aren't even allowed a short break with their family. It shouldn't be one rule for some people, and a different rule for everyone else! And, on the subject of fairness, Muslim children are allowed time off for Eid Mubarak, even though this is during term time, regardless of it being of significant importance to them, should they be allowed to take time off? If children get fined for being ill or going on holiday, then it's not at all fair that they are allowed time off during term time, is it? I don't mean to specifically use Muslims as my source of rage, it's just as there were a lot in my school and now in my son's school, it's easy to see what is different and acceptable for them compared to us and point it out.
I would love to know what other people's opinions on all this are, so please leave me a comment and let me know what you think...