We are just two weeks away from the end of the academic year and what a weird year it has been. Due to the current climate and the fact we are all living through a pandemic schools across England closed their doors for all but the children of key workers. It’s been a journey let’s say that with many families coping with limited resources, time and understanding of the curriculum. Parents everywhere deserve a pat on the back because ‘crisis schooling’ is not even remotely easy. We did it for our country, to help stop the spread of the virus and to do our part in keeping everyone safe. It may have been challenging, but this combined effort worked, and our case numbers are on the decrease. It’s now time to look at sending children back to school in September, and the Prime Minister has announced that come September children who don’t attend school will be fined. Do you think he is correct to enforce this?
School Attendance & Fines
When it comes to school attendance, I am the first to admit it is important. I don’t allow my child to have days off ‘willy nilly’ because showing up and doing the work is important. If he is sick and I mean genuinely shouldn’t be attending school sick I, of course, give him the day off but if he wakes up with a scratchy throat or he just feels tired he has to rally and turn up. That’s life. When you work full time, and people and your colleagues rely on you, then you are expected to show up. I think it’s a good example to set for now and later life.
I understand the need for fines. At Henry’s last school, there was a parent who didn’t take her children’s attendance seriously. She would openly admit to allowing them time off because she didn’t want to do the walk to school in the morning. It was always on a Friday, and at one point her boys had so many Fridays off in one-half term that she had a visit from the attendance officer. These odd days here and there didn’t seem like much, but her children were missing huge chunks of school combined over the year, and they had to spend extra time to catch up. This isn’t a unique situation, and there are parents who are failing their children by allowing them to miss school, and for this reason, fines can be an effective way of deterring unnecessary absence.
Contrary to that, I can’t entirely agree with parents being fined for taking their children out of school for a holiday. It’s naive to assume that learning only happens in the classroom and a holiday with family brings so many benefits, cultural experiences and well-needed rest. I don’t think a family should be fined on this basis. Yes, a child is still missing school, and this work needs to be caught up of course, but the benefits can’t be ignored. For some families, the cost of holidays in term time is so extortionate that they have to forgo a holiday altogether.
I guess what I am saying is I am against unnecessary absence the kind where the child doesn’t really benefit.
Schools Back in September
Our children have missed so much formal education because of the current world events. They, through no fault of their own, have fallen behind in many ways. There is talk of them needing to catch up, and so I fully support schools reopening if it is safe to do so. At the moment, the schools have opened for some year groups where schools can accommodate this. If children don’t attend then their families will NOT be fined. This was reassuring news for many parents across the country. Removing the fines removed the pressure. As a parent, you want to do the best thing for your child so having the ability to decide gave back an element of control. Many parents who initially had been against schools going back so soon actually embraced it because there was no pressure.
The problem is now that schools are on track for fully opening in September the fines have been brought back in, and this has caused alarm for many parents. Let’s not forget that since lockdown was initiated, many households have controlled every aspect of keeping their own families safe. I know that I have managed every item that has come into our household, and we have adhered strict social distancing when necessary. Any exercise has been done remotely and as far away from others as possible. We have formed a safety bubble controlling what factors come in and out and how we deal with them. We have avoided all situations where we are not in control – avoiding public areas etc. We are lucky to have had this experience some families have had no choice but to return to work, use public transport etc. It’s because of this level of control that we have had that makes it a worry to send our children back to school, and that’s why I feel the fines should be removed for the interim.
If a parent feels worried, anxious or scared, for example, they should have the choice. Yes, school is so important and with that comes good attendance BUT the mental health implications of removing that choice from parents is huge. Instead of imposing fines, we should be looking at ways to support parents. How can they be reassured? A video tour of the school showing the safety measures they’ve put in place etc. This virus hasn’t gone away; it’s still amongst us. Families have lost loved ones, neighbours and friends, and there is a huge fear associated with the return to school, and that should be addressed in the best possible way.
Will I be Sending My Child to School?
Amongst my friendship group of parents, there are such a wide array of opinions on this subject. As a shielding family, I do feel fear that I don’t think would be there if I weren’t considered “vulnerable.” There are the families that have no access to resources who are desperate for the school gates to open, and then there are the parents who really aren’t sure it’s the right thing right now. I’m not sure where I sit on this one, to be honest.
Henry is coming up to nine years of age. He is hugely academic and loves school and learning, but that has waivered while he has been at home. The work is less appealing when you aren’t really being taught and of course, not being amongst your peers isn’t much fun. He hasn’t fallen behind as such, but he definitely isn’t as far ahead as he once was. If he continued to be taught this way I think there would be a risk so I, of course, feel he needs to get back to school and into the routine as soon as possible. However, my priority is the safety of my family, and it always will be.
So I’m not making any decisions right now because as we fully well know the world can change in a matter of weeks and who knows what things will look like in September? I will make a decision when the time comes based on the information available then that’s all I can do.
How do you feel about the schools reopening in September? Do you think the imposing of fines is a positive or a negative?
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