What are schools really saying when they reward 100% attendance? 

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I sat at the back of the hall at my daughter’s school end of year assembly smiling as the choir sang, the oldest class performed and finally the awards were given out. As a parent it is such a proud moment to hear your child’s name called out and their achievements recognised. Awards for academic achievement, endeavour, sports, star of the year and citizenship had me cheering, smiling and clapping. Then one final reward which made me so angry I actually wanted to get up and walk out: 100% attendance! 

 
What? You mean they actually reward children with a certificate for not missing a single day at school? Yes it is actually common place and, in my opinion, absolutely awful!

 
To put this in context the average attendance in my local authority this year is over 95% so hardly a huge issue. I do understand some children are absent for reasons that are unacceptable but is this really something to penalise the child for or is this not something that would be better dealt with via education of the parents or guardians?

 
So what are schools really saying when they reward 100% attendance?

 
1. They are telling children ‘we want you here even if you a sick’. 

Surely this goes against all health and safety and human rights of the child and others in the school? This is telling children that coming to school comes before their own physical and mental well being which is appalling. The entire point of education is that the welfare of the child should be central. By rewarding attendance you encourage children to come even when contagious to other staff and children or when they are in no fit state to learn. Stop and think…if an employer put attendance of higher value than human rights would we not be calling our union and going to the press? Then why do we praise schools when they do this?

 
2. They are telling children ‘school comes before your own family.’

Yes children are put down as ‘unauthorised absence’ when they are off due to a family funeral or when there is a family crisis. A few years ago a good friend of mine lost her entire home and possessions in an awful house fire and as a result of being homeless and having no access to uniform or a roof over their head the children lost out on attendance awards! That, to me, is saying to children that even if you have no home, no clothing and no bed to sleep in you should still come to school. In other words, we just don’t care about your home life as long as you attend, even if you are in no state to learn! 

My own family had a sudden death in the family this year and as the immediate relatives it was down to us to make all the funeral arrangements and deal with the estate. The problem was the relative (my children’s gran) lived over 400 miles away. Did school really expect me to say to the undertaker ‘I’m so sorry but as this is term time could you keep the body until the next school holiday?’ Life does not run to school timetables and children are part of wider families where death, hospital stays, separation and unexpected events happen. Do we actually want to live in a society that places school attendance above the welfare of our own children?

 
3. They are telling children ‘turning up is just as important as learning’ 

That sounds good doesn’t it. They will claim this is an award ‘that all can achieve’ wether they are academic or even have additional support needs. You don’t need to be sporty or overly confident or even the ‘teacher’s pet’ to get attendance so what’s the problem? The issue here is that children come to school not simply to have their name ticked on a register as having attended but to learn and develop. We are supposed to be preparing children for the future but what employer would want someone turning up to work doing nothing? If a child has managed to keep up with the pace of learning and tried their best all year is this not of much more long term value than just being there?

 
I get that schools want children there. I understand they are accountable to the local authority for attendance. I understand they want to be seen as inclusive and have awards for children that struggle academically or do not overtly shine out in any subject, but why pick attendance?

 
Make school a safe haven, a place of significance and fun where children want to be. Educate parents on the importance of helping your child to attend as much as possible. But please, do NOT reward children for coming in when unwell, for putting school above family or for just merely having their name ticked on a register. 

 
I thought we were all about having the child at the centre or getting it right for every child or whatever else they wish to call it?

 
Oh and while I am here: not one of the staff members in her school this year would have gained an attendance certificate so why should the children not be treated the same? 

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68 thoughts on “What are schools really saying when they reward 100% attendance? 

  1. I get that schools want to encourage good attendance, but it’s not really up to the kids as to whether they go or not (not at primary age, anyway!), so surely there’s no point whatsoever in rewarding 100% attendance?! At the very least it discriminates against children with medical conditions and other needs that mean 100% isn’t always possible. My son got 100% one year as he just wasn’t ever ill, but then he was devastated the following year when he did have to have time off sick. Unrealistic expectations!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I totally agree with you. My 2 kids are both at the same school. My little girl regularly gets a certificate for 100% attendance. But not my little boy. Reason being is that he has paediatric appointments for his autism and ADHD. Not fair!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve thought the same ever since I heard of these awards being introduced. Horrific. And your point about putting school attendance above family….begins to make it sound like a cult. Schools are trying to brainwash our children into good little citizens, and attendance awards are a really important part of that brainwashing. Hateful.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I totally disagree with this!

    My eldest daughter completed her full 7 years at primary school with 100% attendance. Now she appreciated that at some point she may get ill and be unable to attend she also frowned upon her class mates who took days off to go shopping or didn’t come in because they fell asleep. My daughter has a strong work ethic and never went to school when she was sick. Recognising this is not a punishment on those who did not achieve 100% attendance it is congratulating those who did.

    You were happy to see children receive awards for sports, does that mean those who did not receive recognition are being punished for not being good at sports? Are those not recognised for academic achievement being punished for not being smart? Of course not! Every child is special and every child deserves recognition in whatever area that happens to be.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Everyone is entitled to their opinion but I know many agree with me. I am glad your daughter never got ill but although I agree every child shines in different ways it is hardly a child’s fault is they are sick or lose a loved one. As I said none of the staff had 100% attendance anyway and this is a primary school so kids were not off due to ‘going shopping’ as you suggest.

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    • I don’t know – I think it depends very much on the child. If you’re lucky enough to never get sick, then it’s OK. But if a child has a disability or is prone to a particular illness, they could easily be struggling enough to keep up that they’d never qualify for any other award – and being shown just one more thing they can’t achieve, this one completely arbitrary, is just another slap in the face telling them that they’re not valued. And kids aren’t stupid. They figure out what they have to do to get an award, and assume that behaviour is desirable, regardless of whether that was actually the adults’ intent.

      I wasn’t the quickest kid for picking up on implications (autism ftw!), but I was pretty canny with those direct links between “awards” and “desirable behaviour”. So I went into school when I was sick, every time (once with a fever of 104 when I could barely stand). And I went to all of my university lectures and classes the day my gran died. And I’ve curled up in the first aid room at work during my lunch break because I was really not well and desperately needed to lie down, without even thinking about going home sick. I had to be told by my boss or colleagues to go home sick the first few times, before I could even start to calibrate my sense of “normal”!

      It’s great that your daughter got a good sense of proportion and a healthy attitude to looking after herself – I’m sure that’s credit to you and her family in general for modelling / instilling those values. But I’d argue that’s in spite of things like “100% attendance awards”, definitely not because of them. Not every kid is so lucky.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Omg I totally agree in my sons school they are rewarded with going to a Rock Concert for achieving 💯 my son has been at school every day until recently he had flu but because he didn’t want to miss out he dragged himself to school full of cold and fatigue.
    He was sent home and has now missed out on the reward and is devastated because he was ill . School should not promote this 💯 attendance with rewards !!!!😡😡😡

    Liked by 2 people

  6. This is a big gripe of mine too, at my kids school all those that have 100% attendance for the entire year go into a draw to win a bike. Usually there is only around 3 pupils in the draw and I always feel incredibly sorry for the ones that don’t win. There has been a chicken pox epidemic at the school this year so I doubt very much they will have anyone in the draw. My daughter caught it and cried because she was going to lose her 100% award ☹️

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  7. I couldn’t agree more. This is something I feel so strongly about. My children’s school don’t just give a certificate, they have a reward day where the kids either have a day out of school doing something fun, or a magician or petting zoo might come in. My own children missed out on this as one suffers with Asthma and had a couple of bad chest infections and my other son has a whole lot of medical problems. I will always send my kids to school when they are fit and well, but if they are poorly they should be allowed time to rest and recover. For the children that are late or absent for no apparent reason, I agree that it should be a case of working with the families to resolve this, instead of punishing the children. Punishing may seem like a harsh word, but my son was in bits after being made to sit in a classroom all day whilst his friends enjoyed the attandance reward. Makes me so cross as he is a really good student and really enthusiastic

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This should be stopped it is unfair and divisive. Why are we rewarding children anyway for doing what we expect them to do?
    We expect them to go to school every day it is open IF THEY CAN!
    Certainly in the case of most primary school aged children it is in the hands of their parents, they have to be free to decide if their child is well enough for school or if the family occasion they must attend is important enough for their children to miss school.
    I can’t believe it’s happening really why are we making schools so stressful for children especially those who are most vulnerable?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. A friends son was sent home at 1.50pm with a head injury one day. The resulted in him missing out on the 100%attendance certificate as the school sent him home. He had 99.75% attendance, he was devastated. This is the memory he will.hqve of his last primary school assembly. Awards need to be rethought

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hear hear!

    My parents were pestered by the school due to my absences…… they got really nasty… I was in hospital…. or at home in agony after operations and physiotherapy….

    They however did very little to get me back to school when I was in a wheelchair and needed assistance…. they took months getting the help in so i could go back to school yet went mad at my parents for the time off I had to have….

    Hate the system

    Liked by 2 people

  11. It’s very true – I have issues with it even tho I work in an infant school. If a child becomes ill at school it is not uncommon to wait until after the lunchtime register has been taken before calling a child’s parents to ask them to collect the child because they are ill! So the staff have to take care of and placate a sick child who only wants mummy because they are ill because it is vital not to miss out on the chance to mark a child present and thus improve the school’s attendance record!
    Also just recently my daughter, who has an excellent attendance record, was refused an afternoon off school to be a bridesmaid (for the very first time) at a friend’s wedding – causing her a lot of disappointment and necessitating a rethink of bridesmaids for the bride. – for the sake of 2.5 hours!!! Whatever my child would have missed out on at school must have been seriously mind-blowing stuff….NOT!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Unfortunately we need to look at the other extremes. These are not common however some parents consider family time to be so important that their children have time off when their parents have days off. On a 7on 7 off roster – the children have every 2nd week off. Other rosters 3/4/4/3 result in children being absent from school ‘on holdiay’ for 7days per fortnight.
    My children have medical appointments and illness and meltdowns due to situation at school where I was advised to take my child home for 10 weeks.
    Every child and situation is different and although 100% is great why not reward ‘better than, for example 95% (which is 5 days off in 2 x 10 week school terms)-

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes I agree. Though have to say I am not aware of many who don’t want their child in school. I do know some families whose children are off for important religious ceremonies though and don’t feel they should miss out either. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Good piece.

    Too many schools are a pain re attendance.
    I recently suggested to a head that she give a history project for two boys going on holiday to Spain (they would miss two days in school).

    She refused, she said it would be too much work for the teacher.

    —-

    Liked by 1 person

  14. These awards discriminate openly against children with additional needs.

    My daughter’s school awarded certificates for 100% attendance every half term. That meant that, at the end of every half term, my daughter was in the small minority who stayed seated while the majority stood up to be congratulated. Seeing my daughter feeling this humiliation every half term was horrible but so was seeing the reception children who didn’t understand why they couldn’t stand up with their friends because 100% attendance was meaningless to most four year olds. The children standing up would look around to see who was still sitting down every time.
    All other awards were given to acknowledge the effort the children had made. Attendance in primary school is about luck, not effort. They may be lucky enough not to have been ill. They may be lucky enough to have parents who can take holidays in school holidays. They may be unlucky enough to have parents who sent them to school when they weren’t fit to be there. They may be unlucky enough to need to attend medical appointments during school hours or they may be unlucky enough to have parents who can’t be bothered to get them there consistently.
    Whatever the reasons, in primary, it is not reasonable to put emotional pressure on children to manipulate parents.
    In the end, my daughter got so fed up of the ritual humiliation at the end of each term that she refused to go into the awards assemblies. She told staff very clearly why she wasn’t putting herself through it and stood her ground calmly and firmly. I told her some years later that I was very proud of her that day.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. This has NOTHING to do with your child, and everything to do with state accountability measures. Schools are penalized for poor student attendance. Seriously… even though it is students (when older) and parents (when younger) who decide if and how much attendance will happen, schools get sanctions…. even risk having complete staff replacement, if they don’t make certain cutoff points for “measures” like these. The ONLY recourse schools have is bribery.

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  16. Oh and don’t forget the children who don’t get 100% because another child did.

    What do I mean? Well your child only had a cold so went in. My child had a cold and ended up dangerously ill in HDU under the care of ICU.

    Kids like mine will never get attendance awards because they’re a constant stream of hospital appointments.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Totally agree should be awarding effort, some students turn up get 100%and behave disgraceful, and walk away with certificates and more, what about the students who work their sicks off but are absent due to reasons beyond their control.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Yep, my son is 6 he will never get 100% again in his life, car accident last year with life changing injuries, his school will be penalised for the efforts they have made to keep him in mainstream, due to his low Attendance. This is why i really dont think medical issues/appointments should be included in school attendance figures. It actually punishes schools for having special needs children, it doesnt autimatically make schools behave badly towards them, some are fantastic, but unfortunately the reality is in some schools it does.

    We are happy when we dont have any hospital appointments in a week, let alone a month or a term!
    9 consultants, 4 hospitals add in support services…..

    Liked by 1 person

  19. My beautiful daughter loves school but was born with a disability that means she has to attend regular hospital appointments. Consultants only hold their surgeries on specific days and times so we have no control over when these appointments happen. So through no fault of her own she cannot possibly ever reach 100% attendance, regardless of her not being ill. Fate (genetics) has dealt her a shitty hand that will disadvantage her for her entire life. So the message school is giving her is “No matter how hard you try you will never be as worthwhile as the ‘normal’ kids’

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Totally agree with you on this. It’s wrong on many levels, but mainly the discriminatory one! If anything, the awards or humiliation should be dealt out to the parents at a special assembly – it has nothing to do with the children, who are being used as pawns in the attendance game. About time school staff stood up for the children on this matter…

    Liked by 1 person

  21. My son is T1 diabetic, hosp apps 65miles away every 12wks not a cat in hells chance of him ever getting 100% even if not actually ‘ill’ our school also do non uniform days at the end of every term for kids with highest attendance which I think is really s**t for the ones who generally through no fault of their own get to stick out like a sore thumb in uniform all day!

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  22. Also that kids who need hospital appointments are not allowed a reward that is offered to their less ill or less disabled peers (=discrimination)

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Thank you so much for writing this. My eldest child has a muscle wasting disease and he never ever received a certificate for 100% attendance whilst at primary school. He used to get extremely upset over it particularly as his brothers regularly brought home certificates. I appealed to the school several times but to no avail. I even had other parents criticising me for making such a big deal about it! With my son’s condition he has to attend frequent medical appts. both locally and further afield. No child should ever be made to feel the way my son felt and it upset us as a family. I hope schools will shelve this outdated and grossly unfair idea.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I don’t understand why you think this is unfair or discriminatory. Not every kid needs to win every award. If I don’t play on the school soccer team because I am in a wheelchair, then I don’t get the soccer award. Fine. If I get a “B” average in grades because I am dyslexic, then I don’t get the dean’s list award. Fine. If I don’t get the perfect attendance award because I have a sickness that requires hospitalization once a month, then fine.

    That doesn’t mean that children who DO do all those things shouldn’t get rewarded for it.

    Sounds like what you are advocating is that every kid get the same award regardless of personal circumstances, and then everyone can go home happy. Sorry, that is not how the world works.

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    • That is not what I am saying at all! All I am saying is attendance is out with the child’s control due to illness, parents who don’t send them or family bereavement. Effort and citizenship are usually rewarded in most schools and these are things children can aim for but attendance, in my opinion is totally out with the child’s control especially in young children so rewarding attendance is like rewarding only those with good health or supportive parents.
      Thank you for reading and commenting. This is the whole point of blogs 🙂

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  25. It’s just an award the same as any other. They are not saying that everyone has to be there 100% but just great for the ones that did. Same as not everyone good at science or maths etc. My daughter would have got 100% one year but someone threw a laminated card and it caught her eye so the school asked me to take her and get it checked (rightly so) so she missed out by 1 registration. not even her fault but hey ho life goes on. Life isn’t fair and the earlier in life you realise that, the easier it is to get on in life.

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    • No life isn’t fair and I get that but thankfully a lot of schools are now doing away with this arbitrary award which only penalises children who through no fault of their own get ill. Sports can be worked at, subjects can be studied but health is what it is!

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  26. This drives us bonkers, too!!! Our kids were fussed at (after the fact) for missing one day before spring break because we had to leave early to check in somewhere for a unique geological hunt trip. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience and they got griped at for going early – because when you are 9 and 11, you decide how the schedule works, not your parents….uh no!! Living is worth less than showing up, and it makes me sad for the kids who really stress when they don’t get it. My kids don’t even bother aiming for that one because they know that it isn’t going to happen for us. Love the post!

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I disagree with some of it but my 11yr old son is not great at sport and not the most academic but this year he was adamant he was going to get 100% attendance so he got an award for something and I live in hope that if he’s in school everyday he might learn something more. I get reports each year telling me how he’s a lovely child, well mannered, pleasant and friendly which is lovely but he loves to win an award for him.

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      • But what are they “losing out on”? That is why these award ceremonies have SO MANY categories and possibilities. So that for all the various circumstances, chances are they will get an award for something. Just because they aren’t able to get that ONE single award, shouldn’t mean it should be entirely tossed out, and that kids who DO get 100% attendance are not even recognized for it.

        I understand the premise of your argument. I just disagree with your solution of absolute abolishment of an award that very few kids receive in the first place.

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      • In my case, it’s not just an award. It’s a day trip to Alton Towers organised for students with 100% attendance. She has to stay behind – the only one in her friends group because her attendance is 99.7% – a 0.3% deduction for a hospital appointment – that’s what she’s “losing out on”

        Liked by 1 person

  28. My daughter is distraught – all her friends are going to Alton Towers on Wednesday and she’s not! One friend kicked another student resulting in a ‘negative’, two friends had an argument and hit each other during a performance for the future year 7’s. They are all going, my daughter is not. My daughter has never been late, has attended every day, has no detentions, no negatives and has significantly improved her grades throughout the year. She is known for being quiet, conscientious, hard working and kind to all. Why is the school not taking her to Alton Towers I hear you ask….well her attendance for the year is 99.7%, yep despite not having a full day off school she had a 0.3% deduction because her consultant at the hospital wanted to see her – one afternoon in a full school year!

    Liked by 1 person

  29. I’m in total disbelief! I will see them on Monday, they will explain their theory and I will take it as far as I have to until someone says ‘actually, there is an issue here’. Some children do not stand a chance, my daughter is in a better position than most, apart from a surgery on her arm she is generally 100% well- it’s certainly raised my awareness to the issue some children face through no fault of their own and I for one will be fighting it every step of the way!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Thought I would give you an update. I challenged the school and they have agreed to review their policy for next year looking to exclude health related absence so the acceptance criteria for the award will be based non-health related absence rather than just 100% attendance, attitude to learning, behaviour etc. They also stated that, their understanding was, medical appointments with documentary evidence should not be recorded as absence and they will retrain their staff in absence logging. They will continue to supply a certificate and chocolate bar to 100% attenders to acknowledge this achievement but will make the Alton Towers trip more inclusive. Long way to go but a start – my daughter has also received an invitation to the trip as an apology for their error!

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