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Your name’s not down, you’re not coming in

I recently read a story, which quite frankly shocked me, both as a parent and an educational professional.

In brief an 11 year old was unable to join her friends for a special end-of-year treat for pupils who had a 100% attendance record. This child had missed one day to attend her mother’s funeral.

Please read her full story.

I have never been a fan of rewards for 100% attendance at school or work, be they certificates or treats, as this creates a culture of shaming those who haven’t achieved full attendance. There will be a variety of reasons for absence, for example a virus, a long term medical condition, or a sensitive personal issue. It is outright discrimination, creates divisions and can make some children feel under pressure to attend.

It can also lead to children becoming ‘people pleasers’. Yes, attending school is important, but children and parents should not feel they are in a competition to attend.

In Brene Brown’s international, thought provoking, best-selling book ‘Daring Greatly – How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way we Live, Love, Parent and Lead’, Brene asks a series of reflective questions that I feel are important for schools and work places to discuss as teams, such as: ‘What behaviours are rewarded and punished and how prevalent is blame and shame?’

One can clearly see that in this school there is a culture of reward and indirect punishing, blaming and shaming of pupils and parents. Whether it is done intentionally or not, it is still the case that it is done.

It was refreshing to read that the school has now stopped this policy – and rightly so.

I would recommend that heads and employers read Brene’s book to identify and then modify their culture, values and organisational behaviour, enabling them to understand the emotional impact they have on an individual’s current and long term emotional well-being.


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  • Penny Webb

    I too was shocked to read that story about the 11 yr old girl Laura. You are so right about the messages it gives – and in my opinion it is all part of the ‘one size fits’ culture in our education system. There is NO room for individual needs.

    It links to my own blog about mental health issues and schools reward and sanction systems, that also does not take account of individual needs.

    It seems to me – and even more so now I am also a foster carer – the every child is supposed to fit in the box and to be able to meet all the required standards in achievement, behaviour and so on.

    I wish those that come up with these ‘one size fits all’ ideas would try thinking how their attainment and behaviour would be in the had to face the same life experiences as many of our children have to face – and then to remember that they are children!

    • Laura Henry

      Indeed, Penny.

      We must speak up about these issues that have a lasting impact on children’s emotional well-being.

  • Nathan Archer

    Hi Laura,

    Thanks for posting – and a geat link between Brene Brown and organisational culture.

    I am with you on the rewards and punishment point. If I might quote Dr Montessori…

    “I then urged the teachers to cease handing out the ordinary prizes and punishments, which were no longer suited to our children, and to confine themselves to directing them gently in their work.”

  • Jane Medici

    Hi Laura

    I might be late to this discussion but I just have to say how refreshing I found your views. When my eldest daughter came home with 100% attendance certificate in her first year at school I was horrified, knowing that for many children and families this would be unachievable it seemed wrong to reward a child for something which in no way reflected on her personally. in particular I was concerned about children with SEND, yet another area my younger daughter could never hope to keep up with her sister due to the number of medical appointments she had to attend during school hours. Fortunately my daughter achieved many other more meaningful awards during her schooling and this certificate was soon relegated to the place it deserved.

  • Sally King

    I came across this exact problem with my own daughter when we lost my husbands gran.Great Nanna was a huge influence in my daughters life.We had the difficulty task of deciding whether to take her out of school for the funeral.My then 5 year old already had a good understanding of death and we took her out of school.This was a hard decision as we take her education very seriously but out of respect for her we wanted her included (and also asked her if she wanted to be there).At the end of her school year she was denied a 100% attendance certificate, even though she was not late once and didn’t take ANY other days off.We felt quite hurt as we felt a close family funeral was not a trivial reason for absence.I completely understand what schools are trying to do with these ideas but have a little heart.

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