Attendance certificates punish children unnecessarily

Attendance certificates often penalise children who have absolutely no control over whether they can attain the required standard, and perpetuate a gung-ho culture, argues Annette Jenkins.

I asked my daughter’s friend when she came round for tea what she’d done at school that day. The almost inevitable “Nothing much” was the reply!

With a little coaxing, however, she revealed that attendance certificates had been given out, but reported that she hadn’t received one.

What had prevented her attending, I asked. It seems her family had taken some extra holiday, so of course her attendance record had not been up to par.

Unnecessarily penalising children

Now most of the school children I know have little or no say about when their parents or carers choose to book their holidays, and many families need to take some of their holidays outside of usual school vacation periods to be able to afford one at all.

Likewise, children don’t have much input over when they fall ill, and have to remain at home or even in hospital, and therefore have no opportunity to win the dangled carrot. To lump a child who breaks a limb – or indeed has had to take time out for any other illness – with the kids who skive, is unnecessarily penalising them.

But the premise of attendance certificates, which is presumably that the more children go to school the more they will ‘achieve’, is questionable. (Others would go further, and suggest that the ‘reward culture’ of certificates, stickers and charts, and even positive reinforcement, is generally detrimental to development.)

Gung-ho attitude

Attendance certificate culture also perpetuates the gung-ho attitude that people should struggle in to school or work, no matter how terrible they’re feeling, dosed up to the eyeballs on Lemsip or other drugs and ready to knock out their peers by spreading their lurgy to all and sundry; how that might affect overall attendance isn’t widely mentioned.

One website reported that when a school sent a child home for looking ill, it then said she’d missed a day and couldn’t have her certificate! There are other extreme reports of children prevented from attending an awards disco with their peers because they’d had time off – because a parent had died.

The small proportion of people that this system is presumably designed to motivate – the malingerers, no-shows, runaways, shirkers, skivers and their families – probably couldn’t give a fig about Gold, Silver or even Bronze attendance certificates. 

It’s true that in life not everyone can win every prize, but to create a system of prizes that many children have no hope of winning through no fault of their own seems particularly pernicious.

2 thoughts on “Attendance certificates punish children unnecessarily

  1. Many disabled children have time off related to their disability. Attendance certificates are more than a punishment in these cases they become a breach of the DDA which is a criminal offence. But there seems to be no option for such absences.

  2. Absolutely !

    Crazy systems in education at the moment. I somehow think all the logic and common sense has gone out of it.

    I have taught in around 200 schools and have never met a “normal child in my life ” League tables and targets have done little to motivate children in fact on the most part I think they make teachers and children anxious.

    We seem to be living in a system that’s just running like a crazy cog.

    Education used to be about the whole child and nurturing every single child whatever their ability or attendance level.

    I used to work for a support service and really help children who for the most part could not access the curriculum as they learnt in different ways or just needed attention.

    I doubt any attendance is down to the child at all but the parent and I have taught in schools where children have been raging with fevers and not sent home.

    Where’s the common sense gone and the care and nurturing that schools used to be really able to give children ? What are schools really for ?

    What kind of a role model are we setting for children of the future, where everything is rushed and nothing finished to reach the endless targets, everyone is stressed and that’s passed on to the children.

    I used to have time to read to every child and really know them and I bet that’s now what children really need more than ever with so many working parents.

    We hardly even value teachers at all now in this country.

    There are some great schools and great children but I somehow think alot of the systems adopted were just plain stupid and no one has the guts to speak out and say so.

    I have been a governor in a school and had children of my own and think we haven’t really moved on and really understood in this country that we need to adopt different learning styles for children.

    My daughter was dyslexic but was never picked up at school and I worked and fought for some children like this . As I had the knowledge she got to university and just got a first in her second year at uni training to be a physiotherapist – she got the extra time she needed and gets huge support at university they feel over backwards to help her and still do.

    I wonder at the thousands of children who fall through the system and don’t get the help they need.

    I can’t help but think a lot of the older ways were better , whoever invented children sitting side on at tables to learn and then get told off for not paying attention must be bonkers in my book , rarely do we see lectures at university like this but we expect little ones to learn like this without being distracted !

    All children to move and have long lunch hours and fresh food and more so the teachers , we used to have time to eat and not rush ourselves and then could go back refreshed to teach the afternoons. I have taught children to meditate in many many schools in order to calm down. We rarely even teach children how there brains or thoughts work, we need to be teaching them to really focus on the positive all the time and really motivate them to focus on their skills and talents and really give them a great sense of achievement.

    Einstein didn’t read till he was 7 , yet how many children are “tossed out ” by that age . I have met children who rarely speak and yet a few years later are top of the class. We judge too quickly and hold onto a lot of the negative talk with reports and that’s dangerous , children are quickly labelled in the system today.

    I have played volleyball for England and taught just about everything in my time.

    Ever child is really special about time we really thought about that in the system.

    Give every child a chance every day to turn over a clean slate and be the best they can be today as that’s all we ever really have, that’s what is important, so important.

    Here as a consultant should anyone want me or a motivational speaker !

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