Illness and school attendance

My younger son has had 10 days off sick in year 8. Specifically, he has had 10 days off sick in the spring term of year 8. And I don’t know how I feel about that.

Because my kids have good school attendance. Just like I used to have good attendance at work. My kids often got 100% attendance at primary school. My son has had as much time off in year 8 as he had off in the whole of primary school. That doesn’t feel right to me.

Because I’m a good parent and my kids are good kids. We follow the rules. The rules say you should go to school every day. The rules say good attendance means good education and good achievement. Bad attendance means bad education and bad achievement.

And then I remember. It couldn’t be helped.

He was ill. He wasn’t well enough to go to school. He could barely walk around the house. He certainly couldn’t walk around school and sit through lessons. Plus, being at school would mean he would pass his nasty illnesses on to others.

He had four days off with a virus in January. Then one day off when he had a headache and was struggling with rugby injuries in March (now I really, really wish he hadn’t had that particular day off). And five days off in March with another nasty virus.

The message from schools is that attendance above 96% is what ensures the best results. Attendance of between 90 and 95% means a child’s education will suffer. On his last day off sick, my son’s attendance stood at 91.3%. It is starting to creep up now, but very, very slowly. If he doesn’t have any more time off this year it will just get back to 95%.

My eldest’s school is very strict on attendance. Kids have to attend special ‘clubs’ if their attendance slips. I get that there are kids who play truant or whose families have a poor attitude to education. They should attend the clubs. But kids who’ve been ill through no fault of their own have to attend too.

I’m impressed that my younger son’s school didn’t chase us up over his attendance. They have accepted that, while unlucky, it is perfectly possible for an otherwise healthy 13 year old boy to get two bad viruses in the space of a term.

So I’m going to change my mindset and stop beating myself up. I am a good mum and my kids are good kids. Certainly my son’s most recent report and parents’ evening don’t give me any cause for concern. This kid can already achieve top GCSE grades in year 8.

So if my good kids need time off because they’re ill, this good mum is going to let them and sod the attendance figures!

Bubbablue and me school days linky

Author: Sarah Mummy

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17 Comments

  1. I’m sorry you guys have had such a rough go of it this year – but it really can’t be helped. If kids are ill, they’re ill.

    If it helps to see another perspective, here in Canada the U.K. seems particularly hung up about school attendance – and people are baffled by the recent Supreme Court ruling in England against taking kids on vacation in term time. At least in elementary/ primary school, there’s no issue at all here with taking kids out (British uniform rules also seem inexplicable to me now, but that’s another story!).

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    • Thanks very much! It hadn’t occurred to me that was a very British obsession. The fact that other countries aren’t so obsessed suggests it isn’t actually the issue it’s made out to be here. The court ruling on term-time holidays is disappointing for a lot of people. It has been law that you can’t take them for a few years now, but that was a glimmer of hope. We wouldn’t take ours out anyway now they’re at secondary school, but I don’t see why there should be a problem for very young children.

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      • It may be partially because we’re a society of so many immigrants – my kids’ friends are often heading off to see family in Japan or Greece or wherever during term time.

        That said, when we took the kids out of school for a week to go to Hawaii the only comment from the teachers was that they wished they were going too!

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  2. My daughter’s attendance hit 79% due to a couple of illnesses that required hospital stays (and an ambulance ride!). Her school weren’t thaf nice about it..

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    • It’s awful when schools aren’t supportive. You would think that hospital stays would be enough to convince the school that your daughter definitely wasn’t well – and that maybe they should ask what they can do to support her return to school.

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  3. My children don’t have time off of school for no reason either, Despite not liking paying the increased pricing for holidays in school holiday time, I knew that was a consequence of having children of school age and have never taken them out of school for holidays.

    This school year in the first term my daughter was ill. She had a chest infection and then an ear infection, she was off of school for ten days consecutively. With a doctors note and also we had to cancel flights to New York as she was not cleared to fly from the ear infection so this was the October half term, she was actually ill right into the holiday and was finally better on about the Thursday.

    Her illness was necessary time off of school, but every parents evening or every time I have to speak to teacher her absence is brought up, despite not being behind at all and in front for most subjects. This makes me so cross. Target led society.

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    • That would make me really cross too! With a doctor’s note it’s clear that the illness was genuine and couldn’t be helped and if she’s not behind, where’s the issue? Credit to my son’s school – he had 10 days off in the spring term and was only just back from a full week off ill when it was his parents’ evening and none of the teachers mentioned his absence at all.

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  4. It’s one of those things. my kids don’t have time off unless it’s necessary and my younger two have just had 100% attendance certificates for the last term. My eldest, however, has health issues which mean she does get sick and lose time from school. I’m not happy about it and neither is the school but I can’t do anything about it. She lost almost the entire year 5 because of illness, but she did have five operations that year. She also had a tutor that visited her at home while she was in traction. She is not behind in any of her work despite being sick and autistic. She’s in all the top groups at school. It’s just her attendance that lets her down, but I don’t beat myself up about it, I’d like it to be different but it isn’t.
    It is a bugbear of mine that kids are sent into school sick or with viruses. How can you stop them spreading if the kids are at school spreading it around. Sometimes you just can’t win.

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    • I remember when your daughter was so ill. It’s great that she is in all the top sets at school. It sounds like there’s definitely no need to beat yourself up about it.
      It is wrong that kids are sent into school ill. At my son’s school we’ve been told not to send ill kids in as there is a girl having chemo in the school. Sadly, this must be a fairly common occurrence in secondary schools and reminds us of the importance of stopping bugs from spreading.

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  5. He’s a clever boy .
    It’s a shame he’s been ill I’m sure he’ll manage , it’s a worry as they get closer to GCSEs .

    Wishing him good health c

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    • Thanks very much! Thankfully GCSEs are still three years away for him.

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  6. I remember when my son bumped his head at school they sent him
    Home then sent me a letter why he was absent

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    • No way! That is ridiculous!

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  7. The attendance thing does annoy me. My son is going to miss quite a bit of time because he NEEDS a brace and I can’t afford to pay privately for him to go somewhere out of school hours. I hate the “rewards” for not being ill or going in regardless. People ignoring the 48 hr bug rule for the chance to win a prize.

    On the other hand I AM pulling the boys out for trips to do with my blog – experiences they wouldn’t otherwise have. My 9 year old isn’t really learning a lot at school as he is so far ahead and is actually getting bored.

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    • I think a lot of kids have to come out of school for braces etc. It just isn’t possible to have appointments outside school time.
      I admire you for taking them out, but that’s something I would never do! I am someone who follows the rules, even if I don’t always agree with them!

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  8. I’m of the same view. They should be in school. Last year I was pained because N had 1 day off sick. But this year he’s had 3 days (fever, and virus wiped him out), and then a head bump in the playground where the dr/nurse sent him home meant another day. And we’ve still got another term left! Just those 4 days has already put him down to 96%.

    We can’t do much about illness unfortunately. Thankfully N is rarely ill, but hopefully as he gets older he’ll be on target and ahead of his work so I won’t feel so bad about it.

    Thanks for linking up to #Schooldays

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    • It just can’t be helped, can it? Four days off in year 1 doesn’t sound bad at all! I thought my kids would have less time off school as they got older, but the reverse it true this year!

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