Why Celebrate 100% Attendance?

My daughter came home with one of these certificates a couple of weeks ago…

Attendance Certificate

Well done, she showed up every day. She’d been fortunate enough to be quite well through all of last term, bar the odd sniffle here and there. Of course, as soon as this arrived she has been jinxed and has had two bouts of illness in the past month.

But here’s the thing, despite obviously hoping that my girl is always healthy and feeling good, I really do not aspire to gain 100% attendance for her. It means absolutely nothing to me.

I want her to enjoy going to school each day, to be making friends, learning, engaging and giving it 100%. A certificate for kindness, for excellent work, for efforts made, those I’d be so very proud of, but this one seems rather pointless.

And there’s the problem for me. I think that because 100% attendance is celebrated, it becomes something to aspire to. Why?

Perhaps this is why a fellow classmate was at school earlier this month boasting that he’d been vomiting that morning but had still made it to school. Ah, well done to him and his parents. It’s great that he is now still on course for his 100% attendance certificate for this term. Maybe he’ll get through the whole year without any absences and get presented with a certificate in assembly, whilst my girl will get no such accolade. As of course this meant that my daughter and at least two other classmates that I know of had an awful weekend and were all off school on the Monday. And who knows who they managed to pass it onto, too.

Bang goes their certificates.

I understand that schools want their pupils to attend, of course they do. I see that they want to discourage unwarranted absences. But when a child is poorly, they should stay away. They need to rest and re-energise so that they are up to a full-on day at school again. They also need to stay away to prevent their germs spreading to others, others who may struggle to bounce back, others who are already unwell, others who simply don’t want to see their plans cancelled due to illness – taking time off work, forfeiting a weekend away, not being able to catch up with friends as arranged, or whatever it may be.

I don’t know whether the certificates, as a symbol of celebrating full attendance are to blame. I don’t know whether the lack of reminders from school about needing to keep kids at home for 24/48 hours after illnesses are a cause, though I think common sense needs to prevail here.

I just know that if my kids are clearly ill, they stay home. They rest. If I know it’s contagious then they are kept away from school and nursery for the required amount of time, as I’d hate to think they’d been the cause of other families getting ill.

I only wish that everyone else felt this way, too, and we stopped jumping up and down about 100% attendance.

Where do you stand on this one?

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45 thoughts on “Why Celebrate 100% Attendance?”

  1. Yes!!!!! This 100% attendance thing winds me up a bit. There’s such a huge emphasis placed on it. Z got a “best listener” certificate the other day and it was a printout stuffed in his bag. I think things like that and kindness, best improvement etc are so much more important too. I think there’s a huge pressure on school with attendance targets though which is what I think is causing it. Grr.

  2. You’ve done the responsible thing. Chances are Vomit-Kid has parents who can’t or won’t take time off work. We had a case recently when a child came to school and told us he’d been sick in the night (kids are honest like that). We sent him home, with express directions not to come back for 48 hours ;mum didn’t like it at all. Schools are under so much pressure but common sense has to prevail My son missed out on his 100% because of orthodontic appointments. If you saw the shocking non attendance and resulting under achievement that we do you’d understand why this is all in place. I agree there’s that ‘just missed out’ group. But that’s life.

    1. I can understand that they need to improve attendance, along with its correlation to achievements, but I’m unconvinced that these certificates and rewards are the way forward. Sorry that your son missed out.

  3. This is our culture now isn’t it? My workplace has a policy whereby if you have more than three occasions of illness absence in a year you miss out on that year’s pay rise (if you’re on the scale). I’m one of the healthiest people there – probably only had about three days off in nearly nine years – and I used to get given a congratulatory letter too. I do think it’s a sad indictment on what the powers that be consider our “sicky” culture and in schools I suspect it’s being used as a deterrent not just for lazy ignorant parents who can’t be arsed to enforce their children’s schooling but also for those of us who might be tempted to take our kids out on a term time holiday. These certificates are probably about as passive aggressive as it gets!

    1. It is, unfortunately, and things like that in the workplace wind me up even more as in my view, that’s poor management of unwarranted absences forcing a policy on everyone else, so that the genuinely ill people pay for the few that are taking advantage. Yep, I think you’re right!

  4. I really dislike these awards. I realise schools are driven to celebrate attendance because they themselves are measured on attendance rates by Oftsed but I think it sends the wrong message that it’s better for a child to attend school ill for a week than to take a day or two out, rest up and get better.

    Does the award drive bad decision-making by parents? Maybe, maybe not. I think a lot of the time when both parents are working and unable to rearrange at short notice the temptation is to send the kids in when they’re borderline ill. It’s not right, of course, but I can see how it happens and we’ve certainly faced that decision at times.

    It’s the same as in the workplace. Too often I’ve made the mistake of dragging myself into work for an important meeting only to make myself worse or, worse still, pass on the illness to colleagues. Increasingly these days with technology being what it is I’ll opt to dial in instead and keep my germs to myself – but I still get it wrong at times.

    1. Yes, it does cross over to the workplace, too, it’s in our culture now to just get on with it when we’re ill instead of taking a couple of days rest and then bouncing back a lot better – though this with the benefit of hindsight as I was always carrying on when ill when I worked full time (though I notice I get more germs now I have kids in the home anyway!). To reward, and conversely not reward, young kids over something like this just feels wrong to me.

  5. I hate the fact that 100% attendance is celebrated especially when parents send their ill children to school….
    Luckily girls have never missed a day due to illness over the last year but have less than the 100%…At my eldest girls school those who have it get special treats….Movie afternoons at the end of each term and trips out. Becky achieved this once….Then she had to go to get her heart checked at the hospital which means she missed a day. Then she has missed a morning and an afternoon here and there when she had her braces fitted and tightened….Now she is classed as a failure in attendance and now misses out on the treats and rewards. Grr!

    1. Oh, that is just too much, isn’t it? And as you say, with her heart condition, she’s already disadvantaged and likely to need to take time for appointments, so unfair.

  6. Kimberlye Richardson

    I would love to give you a huge round of applause for this post. I also find it ridiculous that they reward students for perfect attendance, especially the younger students who are more likely to pass things on and catch everything under the sun. In the US, they give out rewards for perfect attendance, give out medals at the end of the year for students who achieve the full year of perfect attendance, and even have parties for these students. I do not remember the last time that my girls were celebrated at school in the form of a party for having straight A’s. As a former PTA mom years ago, they used to do this and even posted the lists of students who made these academic achievements (some parents actually fought these and the next thing I knew, I was no longer arranging meals with the principals or assistant principals to celebrate, nor was I allowed to post the large wall of names for children to be excited about and aspire to have their names on the wall). I understand that attendance has a lot to do with the amount that children learn, & I also understand that attendance is an issue for many students and parents who truly do not care about whether or not their children are at school every day. Those parents, however, deal with truancy officers and have other repercussions for not sending their children to school. What drives me crazy is that I am the parent who follows the rules where if my child is sick and has a fever, I do not send my girls back to school until a minimum of 24 hours has passed since they broke their fever. Those are the rules. I do not believe in sending my children to school to pass on some illness to everyone else, nor do I believe in passing on something that is more extreme. I have kept my girls home when I have noticed that they were starting to get ill and made them rest so that they recovered quickly and I did not have to deal with their being exhausted from being at school, their low immunity to other children who are obviously carrying around the illness that they’ve caught, and the various doctor bills and antibiotics that I might have to deal with because of sending my children to school. The things that drive me crazy are the parents who send their kids to school no matter what. I have seen these children who are at school looking rather pallor in the face as if they are going to pass out at any moment, or they are wiping runny noses onto their clothing and coughing furiously. Unlessthe students are vomiting or have spoken up to a teacher to tell him that they’re not feeling well, or if we have the occasional teacher who pays attention and decides to send that student to the nurse, the children remain at school passing along the next flu virus or whatever illness may be going around. Hand sanitizer does not save our children from every illness. How can I guarantee that my child is going to be at school every day when so many parents are sending their children to school in this condition? My girls have had their occasional semester of perfect attendance throughout their school career; however, I would much prefer to reward my girls for their grades. I do make sure that I reward my girls for this. Weather at taking them out for a celebratory dinner or chosen to buy them a small reward for their achievement, it’s the one thing that I can do to let them know what I find to be more important and hopefully have them want to continue to achieve those grades. No matter what rewards they pass out for perfect attendance, I am going to continue to keep my youngest daughter home whenever she feels ill or has caught something from other students at school. It’s definitely not the award I hold in high regard after years of seeing what really happens in the classrooms and how many parents here in the US will send their kids to school because they do not have anyone else to watch their kids while they are ill. It’s a sad state when parents cannot put the welfare of their child above their own, or even the consideration for what their child may be passing on to other children. I have had this battle for too many years, but I will continue to pass over those perfect attendance awards for even a 6-week term and celebrate the grades and things my youngest daughter learns. Thank you for posting somethimg that so many of us parents feel about the situation and rewards for either managing to escape every illness, or to come to school to pass on illnesses to other children. It is not really something to celebrate in comparison to all of the other things we could celebrate as achievements. We truly need more conscientious parents, such as yourself.

    1. Well, thank you. It seems such an odd thing to reward, especially as you say when there are so many other things that we can celebrate with our kids, whether they be academic or social achievements. It encourages the wrong behaviours in some, spreading illnesses around, does not change a thing that many of us do which is putting our kids first, and so seems a pointless system to have in place. I suppose it ticks the box for the school showing that they’re putting things in place to encourage attendance levels. Frustrating.

  7. Good for you. When these certificates started turning up in their school bags I felt underwhelmed. Primary school hands out gold for 100% and bronze for near-misses. I’d rather my child was well enough in class to learn and not pass on infection to others. Although, I was quite taken aback by a graph that secondary school showed at a recent parents meeting. It compared attendance percentage to GCSE grades. The drop off of grades was remarkable, as the attendance percentage went down in bands of 5%. Sample was from all students in UK taking GCSEs. It did make me think.Certainly for the older children. Unfortunately orthodontic appointments mean Eldest will never get 100%. Doomed 🙂

    1. Thank you. Yes, I imagine it makes more of a difference the older they get, but then by that age their immune systems are generally stronger and they don’t share their germs quite as freely as little ones seem to do. Sorry to hear you’re doomed!

  8. Well done for this post.

    I am very much against these certificates. Yes, the fact that a child has not missed school for a term is good but it does encourage those parents who quite happily send their bug-filled children into school, who then pass it on to everyone else.

    Quite a few times when child minding I would get told “I was sick in the night but mummy told me not to tell you/my teacher”. Great eh? One year we were all violently ill over Christmas because of a sick child being left with me due to the very reasoning above.

    Where schools needs to encourage and boost attendance are years 5 & 6 and secondary and the prospect of a piece of paper at the end of term will not get a hormonal tween/teen out of bed at all.

    1. Thank you. Oh, the things you must have seen when child minding like this, so very frustrating. You’re so right with the ages they need to look at, too, and then the reasons for non attendance, rather than the many childhood illnesses and bugs that little ones get.

  9. I totally agree! I don’t think Lucas’ school does them but if they do he wou do very rarely get one, he’s gets ill nearly every term and if he isn’t well he stays off, I don’t push him to go in as I couldn’t care less about 100% attendance. Also there are children out there who won’t get in everyday through no fault of their own, it seems a little unfair that they would never get a certificate. xx

    1. As it should be, you’d want him at home with you caring for him when he’s ill anyway, wouldn’t you? It does seem unfair, I really do not like them! x

  10. I’ve heard of parents who have had ‘a letter home’ about attendance due to being off sick. I’ve also heard of someone who was waiting for a letter home after taking their child out of the school day early for a dentist’s appointment – having been up since 4 am with toothache… Individual actions for individual needs springs to mind!

  11. I hate the idea of rewarding children for 100% attendance – it’s not a child’s fault if they are unwell and it’s not something they have any control over. A friend’s child was rewarded with being able to go to a school disco because of her 100% attendance and that just strikes me as being incredibly unfair. I can’t help thinking that this is discriminatory too – a child like Jessica, with her heart condition, is unlikely to ever be able to achieve 100% attendance through no fault of her own and is consequently penalised for it by missing out on this kinds of things. Plus, your comment about the boy who’d been vomiting that morning and still came in made me incredibly angry – attendance certficates potentially encourage parents to send children into school when they really shouldn’t be coming in and increases the chance of these kinds of illnesses being spread more easily. Add to that the fact that a childhood illness that might be quite minor to a completely healthy child could potentially land mine in hospital quite easily and it’s another strike against attendance certificates from my point of view. Rewarding a child for putting effort in and doing well is fair enough but rewarding a child for something that they have absolutely no control over just seems wrong.

    1. It is hugely unfair, especially when rewards like this come into play, too. It is an odd thing to reward for, as I’d rather my girl comes home with rewards for things she’s actually done rather than simply turned up. Their could be kids getting rewards who misbehave at school, but because they attend every day, get treats – madness.

  12. Thankfully my kids schools don’t have these certificates, you only get to see their attendance on the annual school report. I work in a nursery and we are really strict about the time you have to be off for sickness etc. You would think that schools are exactly the same. Yes attendance is really important, but so is keeping your child at home when they are poorly to avoid passing their germs on. Great post x

    1. That is good then, seems to be in the minority. You would think schools would be the same, and to be fair, the staff do agree with the 24/48 hour rules, but then the certificates come out anyway. Annoying.

  13. I wrote about this today too – how it affects young carers and can ostracise children when it is a whole class reward too. Also it goes against what the NHS are saying and doing by cutting back on the use of antibiotics. It all means more illnesses will be spread.

  14. I completely agree with you. It is not right to celebrate managing to make it to school every day when there are others that just can’t because they are unwell. What about those who immune systems can’t cope with all the illnesses that are around? One of my friend’s is a coeliac and when she gets a bug it hits her hard, I can imagine it would have been a nightmare at school if people kept coming in when they weren’t quite well again and giving her their bugs. I also agree that children need to rest and get their energy back before returning. A strange thing to celebrate really! x

    1. A very strange thing to celebrate. Kids need time to get well, not feel pressured to return too soon and therefore share their germs x

  15. My daughter severely strained her shoulder. We saw a GP outside school hours. We spent most of Sunday morning in A&E when it got worse over the weekend. The appt she was given to see a consultant was during the school day. There’s her attendance record dented, and I think it’s wrong to put pressure on kids to feel guilty about things like that.

    1. It absolutely is, it’s something that they shouldn’t have to think or worry about as their health needs to come first.

  16. As you know I wrote a post about this too (Thank you for your comment)

    I really really really dislike the fact that some schools celebrate 100% attendance. They are not celebrating the child, they are celebrating the immune system, or the fact that their parent’s made them go to school when ill and passed it around to all the other kids.

    I say scrap them and celebrate hard work, improvements and being a nice person.

    Laura x x x

  17. I totally agree with you, one of my pet peeves is people going in to work when they are too ill to be there and passing it on! And the same goes for children. Praise and rewards should be for things children work towards rather than something which is really down to luck at best.

  18. Totally don’t get it in your particular school or in primary at all as there are so many bugs around but in the school I work in alas a lot of the Mum’s aren’t as caring as we are. They sleep in. They take their kids off to go and do shopping with them or to help with the baby. Some parents just aren’t that bothered about school (I KNOW!). We have got to the stage now that if your attendance is over a certain amount you go in the draw for a bike or day out. It encourages the kids to come in even if their parents aren’t that fussed (tis sad) x

    1. Yes, I can understand it being in place and there being a need for it in some cases, but I think Y1 is a little too soon x

  19. I completely agree! My 5yo has had conjunctivitis and bad headaches this week and we recieved a snotty letter about attendance! Considering the teachers dont bother listening when she says she is struggling I refuse to send her in until she is well.

  20. I completely agree Jocelyn, it’s a ridiculous thing to reward for. Encourage, yes. Penalise those who get sick? No! Thankfully we don’t have this, and although attendance is noted on their report cards, the guidance for keeping kids off with vomiting/fever/strep throat etc. is very clear and strict. If I sent my kids in, they’d get sent straight home again. In fact, my younger son has a girl in his year who has just finished chemo and we were sent a letter at the beginning of last year stressing how important it was to keep our kids off if they had anything they might pass on to her. That’s the sensible, reasonable thing to do!

    1. Yes, I can understand encouraging it, but at this age, sickness abounds so it seems unrealistic and may prompt the wrong behaviours. People need to be sensible!

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  22. N got a 100% certificate too at parents evening. He’s had a sore throat one day but that’s it, so we’re lucky that so far he’s not been ill enough to be off school. Pretty much all the others in the class have had time off.

    I think it’s great to be celebrated when not expected, but does pose problems when silly parents are sending children in after V&D bouts. I don’t think it would stop me keeping him off if he was ill though – for me it’s more important in secondary school when kids start bunking off and being sloppy about on time registration etc. Better to celebrate those turning up on time (on the days they’re not sick), than giving rewards for slacker truants who may only turn up a couple of times.

    Having said that, yes I’m proud he’s not been ill, but I’d much rather he won star of the week, or learner of the week again.

    1. It does pose problems, I think, though yes, definitely more important when they’re older. Yes, nicer to see rewards for behaviour and achievements that are within their control.

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