Letter about poor attendance - should I worry?

(65 Posts)
FlatsInDagenham Fri 25-Jan-13 14:25:44

DD1 is in reception. Since starting in September she has caught every virus going and seems to be constantly fighting a new illness and has had quite a few days off school, particularly since winter set in.

So we had a letter this morning from the school regarding her attendance rate, which has dropped to 86%. It says that 'the LA Attendance Officer begins to take an interest in children's attendance that falls below 90%'

Should I be worried? What am I supposed to do when she is genuinely ill? Maybe I should see her GP.

pointythings Sat 26-Jan-13 22:41:57

Anti-bac hand gel should really only be used for D&V - for colds it's useless and may have an adverse effect. Children need to 'meet' as many viruses as possible to develop immunity - and in some children this may take longer than in others.

I'm very hmm about attendance targets just because they are so very politicised - the welfare of the actual children seems to be a secondary consideration sad.

Ilovesunflowers Sun 27-Jan-13 15:06:05

Well if she is only a 'little bit ill' then she can go to school then can't she Cecily.

Pointythings - good point that anti bac gel doesn't work on viruses.

5madthings Sun 27-Jan-13 15:12:07

You can be Ill enough that you can't go to school but not be I'll enough to go to the drs.

cory Sun 27-Jan-13 15:18:21

Ilovesunflowers Sun 27-Jan-13 15:06:05
"Well if she is only a 'little bit ill' then she can go to school then can't she Cecily."

For immune disorder purposes, "just a little bit ill" might still cover a temperature of 38.9, maybe vomiting and possibly an ear infection- which is not the state in which they would want you at school.

My brother got a high temperature and this level of symptoms every time he caught a cold for the first few years of school. It was a nightmare for my mother. This is still not the level of immunity problem where something will show up on the blood tests; for the kind of immune disorder that would show up on blood tests, you'd probably be looking at frequent hospitalisation with full blown pneumonia rather than just flu. Doesn't mean anyone who has the flu is fit to go to school.

CecilyP Sun 27-Jan-13 15:28:34

Well if she is only a 'little bit ill' then she can go to school then can't she Cecily.

I disagree. You can be too ill to go to school while still not ill enough to go to the doctor. If a child has a nasty cold, or flu or a throat infection, you don't need a doctor to tell you what is wrong with them or to prescribe anything that can't be bought over the counter at the chemist. And as it is a trend when children start school, there doesn't seem much point in consulting a doctor to see if there is something more serious wrong.

DameSaggarmakersbottomknocker Sun 27-Jan-13 15:33:38

OP - school are duty bound to let you know what your child's attendance is. It's not altogether a bad thing see it in black and white as some parents do need to see the impact lots of odd days have. Being in reception, school are not yet familiar with what type of parent you are; the type that takes the children shoe shopping on a Thursday and thinks it's OK to have birthdays off or the type that's basically doing their best to keep their child well and in school.

I have plenty of both types of parent and I try to treat them as individuals but it's surprising how the health of some children improves when a penalty warning lands on the doorstep. I'm not including you in this category smile

In your shoes I would ignore the letter, continue to send your child when she is well and keep her off when she isn't.

Secondly, the money a school receives is based on attendance - so unauthorised absences have to be kept to a minimum from the school's point of view. This is not true afaik.

drjohnsonscat Sun 27-Jan-13 17:19:56

Dd in yr 1 has had 86pc attendance. It was 84pc last year. She has had chickenpox, flu, three or four UTIs (investigated), at least two vomiting bugs and various random fevers. I wouldn't take her to the docs for anything other than the UTIs. You can absolutely be too ill for school but not ill enough for the dr. It's actively unhelpful for schools to be seeking sick notes for childhood bugs - my GP certainly does not want to see me every time one of my children throws up or has a fever (that would be four times since 1 Jan and frankly we've all got better things to do)

I'm a single parent who works full time so my children go to school if at all possible. But these hard and fast rules are a bit daft. Children do get sick frequently. I do hope our illness rate will improve but schools should display some common sense at this age. Ours does btw. No letter here.

ChristmasJubilee Sun 27-Jan-13 17:30:53

I would phone the school on the first day of her absence letting them know what is wrong and, on her return, send a letter detailing everything including any dr's appointments, medication prescribed, etc and keep a copy in a folder. Remember to document if she was sent home from school and, if so, what was said to you.

Don't worry about it.

morethanpotatoprints Sun 27-Jan-13 21:55:27

I think there are discrepancies in the use of EWO's authority in different areas.
Before leaving school in July at the end of y3 my dds attendance was in the 70's, nobody batted an eye lid and no EWO involved. My dd wasn't even ill, well hardly ever.
She was good publicity for the LEA and school as she has particular talents which she pursued during many school hours.
I think it is disgusting that parents of children who are ill are subjected to threats and made to feel irresponsible when children like my dd are encouraged to skip school. The end result for us was leaving school as I was afraid her education would suffer. But this came from us as parents not the LEA.

lougle Sun 27-Jan-13 22:18:29

My DD2 had almost 100% attendance in Yr R.

In October last year, she suddenly came down with a virus just before half-term. She didn't pick up over half-term, and still wasn't well enough for school when it finished. I had taken her to the doctors and was given antibiotics. I took her back to the doctors a day or two later, explaining that she'd had quite a few days off already, and I needed to know if she was faking it (she was displaying anxiety). The doctor said 'no she's not faking, her glands are up in her neck and I think she has mesenteric adenitis'. He recommended that I keep her home until she had one 'good day', because she was falling asleep mid-morning, mid-afternoon and going to bed early. I discussed this with her teacher.

I tried to get her back to school, but after one day of being back, she had diarrhoea in the evening. She had to be excluded for 48 hours. Then, she went back to school for a few days. On a Sunday evening, she had severe abdominal pain (enough to call Out of Hours and them to want a Doctor to visit us at home because they could hear her screams), but eventually she vomited copiously. Of course, that led to another 48 hour exclusion.

The last week of term, I sent her to school daily with a temperature of 39.7c.

Despite this, her attendance was 79.84%. I got the letter. I told the HT that I wasn't happy to get the letter, considering I had been in such close contact with school, GPs and Paediatrician. She basically accused me of lying. She had no idea that I had been phoning the school (note to self: email each and every time). She wouldn't believe that I had been sending her in with a temperature of 39.7 because she said the school would have sent her home.

This Friday, she came out of school with a temperature of 38.5. It rose to 39.6 in the evening, stayed that way, dropping only 1 degree after paracetamol. Now, she has a temperature of 38c.

Tomorrow morning, I have to decide whether to:

a) Follow school policy and keep her off (temp over 37.5 - don't send), but not take her to the doctor - that will be recorded as unauthorised absence.

b) Follow school policy, take her to the doctor, but risk him refusing to write a letter, because it isn't his job to write sick notes for school children. If he doesn't, it will be unauthorised.

c) Take her to school despite being ill, so that other children catch her bugs and get kept off school.

The fact that she has to have weekly blood tests and I take her 10 miles away before 07.30 in the morning so that she doesn't miss the start of school seems to give no indication to the school as to how important I think her education is...

cory Mon 28-Jan-13 09:24:36

DameSaggarmakersbottomknocker Sun 27-Jan-13 15:33:38
"OP - school are duty bound to let you know what your child's attendance is. It's not altogether a bad thing see it in black and white as some parents do need to see the impact lots of odd days have. Being in reception, school are not yet familiar with what type of parent you are; the type that takes the children shoe shopping on a Thursday and thinks it's OK to have birthdays off or the type that's basically doing their best to keep their child well and in school.

I have plenty of both types of parent and I try to treat them as individuals but it's surprising how the health of some children improves when a penalty warning lands on the doorstep. "

Otoh schools may not realise the long-lasting damage that is done if they fail to distinguish between these two types of parents (and children!).

I am sure dd's headteacher thought he was doing his best when he kept calling us in to criticise our parenting and kept explaining to dd that she couldn't really be ill or in pain.

What he doesn't see, and never needs to know about, is how dd is going to pieces in secondary school because she cannot get her head around that here she will be believed, the years of self harming, the suicide attempts, all brought on because she feels she cannot face having to explain yet again to people who may not believe her.

The HT told her often enough how her whole life would be impacted, how she wouldn't be able to cope with her studies or earn a living, how everything would be hopeless if she couldn't stop being ill.

If you have an incurable chronic illness, would that make you feel you wanted to go on living?

cory Mon 28-Jan-13 09:26:05

Note: to explain the seeming contradictions with my earlier posts: dd has Ehlers Danlos syndrome, which causes chronic pain; it is thought that the stress from this also lowers her immune system. So not just talking colds and flu here.

cory Mon 28-Jan-13 09:30:06

I know I sound bitter, but dd took an overdose week before last because her school transport knocked on the door and she freaked out of explaining to him why she couldn't go.

Startail Mon 28-Jan-13 09:45:56

DD2 has 88% for last term, she has had 8 days off.

The first single one I might just have crow-barred her to school feeling awful. The two days the Matron sent her home.

The full week she had a virus that gave her an ear infection as well.
I've never known DD2 take a week off school ever.

She was still pretty subdued right into the Christmas holidays. Not like her at all.

It's been a really really bad year for lingering bugs. I'm absolutely certain EWO's won't have time to chase DCs who have genuinely had a couple of weeks off this winter.

poozlepants Mon 28-Jan-13 10:05:49

Some years are just worse than others for bugs. DS 4 is in preschool and he has been off for about 3 weeks in the last 2 months. It's been flu, then a vomiting bug, then a nasty virus. It's been going round the whole nursery. DH and I have caught everything he has which is unusual as well. Over the previous 2 years I think he was only off for about 3 days before that.
These things happen - I wouldn't stress about it.

socharlotte Mon 28-Jan-13 10:08:48

My DD who is 11 and started at grammar school last term has been off sick loads.Again, just low level things .Just recently she had a rash accompanied by a mild fever, then a heavy cold and then diarrhoea one after the other.Last Wednesday she was complaining of tummy pain and feeling queasy but no other symptoms so I sent her in because she'd been off a week and a half!.The school rang me to collect her at lunchtime and I took her to the docs.She took one look at her and was horrified that I'd sent her to school so pale and washed out and that she should stay off til at least Monday and get properly recovered.
You can't win!!

FlouncingMintyy Mon 28-Jan-13 10:11:55

Nicely dropped in that your dd is at grammar school Socharlotte wink.

I'm just thinking even if an attendance officer did arrange to come and see you about this I'm sure she'd be pretty easily reassured. So, try not to stress about it. Basically it's an automatically generated letter. We had one for DS once when he had been off with shingles. It even mentioned not taking time off for shopping which was bloody cheeky in the circumstances. I did go in to see someone at the school about it and make my feelings and objections known.
But equally you could ignore it if that's easier.
It would be nice if they at least included more concern for the possibility the child has been ill, especially where the parent has told them why the child has been absent hmm

expansivegirth Mon 28-Jan-13 11:06:19

lougle: Why don't you send an e-mail to the head that you understand that she does not trust you, and does not trust your judgement. Therefore, next time your daughter is ill you will take your daughter into school, and ask thehead to make the call. Bring a thermometer. This is what I would be tempted to do.

expansivegirth Mon 28-Jan-13 11:08:58

BTW: Please can someone explain to me EXACTLY in which ways the school suffers if the children fall below a certain attendance ie financial? Ofsted and it's ramifications (linked to money?). AND WHAT IS THIS LEVEL PLEASE. ie. Is it judged against national guidelines.

ALSO LEGALLY at what stage is a school allowed to fine. And how easy is it to challenge a fine?

socharlotte Mon 28-Jan-13 11:34:33

'Nicely dropped in that your dd is at grammar school Socharlotte wink. '

lol .I honestly had a reason for that which I didn't state!It was to say that DD is worried at missing school because of the pace of work, and the amount she will have to catch up when she gets back! For example my DSIL has taught French in several comprehensive schools where the year 7s are not taught much grammar , dds class have done lots!

Really Op I wouldn't engage with the school too much over this.Just say she was ill and leave it at that

Hercule Mon 28-Jan-13 11:50:15

Expansive girth - I'm not an expert but I don't think the school suffers financially , but it is an Ofsted requirement that attendance levels are at or above a certain level ( can't find exactly what that is at the moment). But I was under the impression that the main problem is that Ofsted is now very results driven and the school has to show high levels of both attainment and progress for all pupils. If a child's attendance is low then obviously it's harder to ensure they make the recommended progress( if they're not there the school can't teach them). So low attendance has an indirect negative effect on the results of the school.

cory Mon 28-Jan-13 12:17:33

Attendance is one of the categories in which a school is judged on an Ofsted report: very hard to get an Outstanding if attendance is low.

takemehometoauntem Mon 28-Jan-13 13:10:57

Don't sweat it...if your daughter is genuinely ill let the EWO do the running! Just keep a diary as mentioned above, dates, symptoms, if you visited doctor (in our area we have to describe the symptoms to the receptionist and we are either booked in to see the doctor or a nurse practitioner dependent on severity) , what was the outcome. Also make a note of times when you daughter is sent home, symptoms/reasons (you would be surprised how many half days there are when a child has been sent home before dinner which soon add up to full days, make a note of times when your daughter leaves school with a temp, what her temp was, and then what she was like the following day. My son tends to get really nasty flu like symptoms when he gets stressed (very low energy, eyes glazed and red, rubbish in his throat which he can't move, more argumentative than usual, lower tolerance levels than usual), I will go by my own instincts on whether or not he is ill enough to attend school, sometimes I give him some medicine and see if I get a phone call later that day or just keep him off. But he doesn't necessarily need to go to the GP (TBH I would feel that I was wasting the GP's time especially if I knew what was wrong hmm) Maybe it would be a good thing to go to the GP and explain to him what has been asked of you maybe he/she can send a little letter (and copy you in smile) to the school pointing out how unnecessary their requests are? and refuse to do this? I shouldn't think there would be much they can do if your daughters GP point blank refuses, Unless they sent the EWO out to see them too.
Oh just for the record my son is taking multi-vits, actimel, goes to bed early, eats a healthy diet, and his behavior/attention WILL deteriorate dramatically when poorly so he will probably spend more time being punished than actually learning if he is sent in to school so not too sure how his education would be effected any more if he was to attend school ill than for him to stay at home confused.

WhatKindofFool Mon 28-Jan-13 13:19:44

I had a similar letter once. I can't remember the exact figure. I chucked it in the bin and thought no more of it.

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