An article published by the BBC caught my attention today, concerning pupils absences from school and the approach undertaken by one council to tackle it.
The “Get a grip” campaign was launched by East Sussex County Council which recently has faced significant backlash, and I can understand why.
The nature of the campaign can be encapsulated with one sentence “Good reasons for missing school – there are none”. This is alongside advice on “being more organised” the night before school.
In my opinion this alienates parents makes them feel like and come across as sub standard parents. The use of derogatory language will not motivate those who are guilty of not managing their child’s attendance effectively. Additionally, it could make the school and it’s staff appear more hostile and unapproachable.
It will also make parents who have always followed the rules and guidelines that the schools and local authorities set feel patronised, as if they are not being a proper parent who is not the one in control.
An overlooked issue by this campaign is those with dealing with serious and ongoing illnesses. Some children are unfortunate to have a long term health condition that makes everyday activities such as getting up and going to school considerably more difficult. This can be distressing enough for parents, and to then have a flyer sent through their door from the council telling them to “get a grip” on their child’s school attendance is far from helpful or constructive. Not the positive, friendly, approachable message we as future teachers are encouraged to promote.
One of the main issues I have with the council’s introduction of this campaign is that it contradicts one of their other guidelines; that parents should keep a child off school for 48 hours after a viral sickness bug. Parents are having to make a choice between the two guidelines. Which one are they going to break?
Don’t get me wrong I understand the reasoning behind the council’s campaign. Attendance within schools is carefully monitored and there are going to inevitably be some children in every school that have irregular and unexplained absences over the school year. However, to tarnish all parents with the same brush is not an appropriate way to deal with the issue.
In essence while this campaign is well principled and would work in theory practically this it is isolating to the child and parent and overall regressive for the future of teaching