Friday 24 January 2014

RANT: School Fines: Right Or Wrong? (YB)

OK, it's been a while since I had a good old fashioned rant about something, but this one's been brewing for a while...

In your opinion, are fines from schools/education welfare justified and reasonable? Is a £60 fine reasonable for poor attendance? Is a £60 fine reasonable for repeat lates? Also, should you really not be able to take your child(ren) for a short holiday in term time?

Firstly, I'm going to talk about the fines for being off school ill and how this has personally affected me.

Well, we have had fines on more than one occasion for our son being off school ill. I must point out, we'd never keep him off with a sniffle, we keep him off only when he is genuinely too ill to go to school. We are due to go into his school again next week regarding his poor attendance. But I feel that poor attendance is based on a statistic - should children or adults be classed as a statistic? Because, let's face it, everyone is different, whether school/education welfare/governments admit it or not. So because the average child is able to attend school 95% of the time, does that mean all children should be able to?

When I was a child, I was off school ill quite a lot, much of which was caused by my asthma amongst other childhood illnesses - I was genuinely ill a lot of the time, this for me continued into adult life and I still get ill a hell of a lot more often than the average person. My husband on the other hand, he's always been in really good health, he very rarely gets ill at all. It's unusual if he gets a cold in a year - the most ill I've seen him since we met is a couple of days whereby he had a stomach bug! Our son, seems to be just like me though, he is ill a lot and ends up at the doctors more times than I care to mention. Maybe me and him have lower immune systems or something, I don't know, but there must be a reason why we get so ill, so much more often.

But the school/education welfare do not see it that way - because all they ever look at is statistics, rather than treating each child as the individual that they are. The last time the person from the education welfare visited us, she basically said something along the lines of "well the doctor must be wrong" - I'm sorry but do you happen to have a medical degree then? I thought not! Initially, they said we should always take him to the doctors when is ill so we have proof for them that he is ill, so we did as they said and apparently that's still not good enough! If the doctor is saying he is too ill to be at school, well that's good enough for me and I think it should be for them as after all, I'm pretty sure none of them have a medical degree!

In my opinion, those people who send their children in when they are ill are selfish - you are sending your child to spread germs around the school to all of the other children, one or more of those children may end up significantly more ill than your child was thanks to your selfishness! The school's don't help either - my son's school incentivises coming into school no matter how ill with the chance to win an iPad Mini at the end of the school year if your attendance is perfect! Even doctors say that schools are to blame for children being ill so often, as they demand children go in with all sorts to pass it on to everyone else. In fact, seeing as they love statistics so, if you look at the statistics for how quickly germs spread in this country, it's a lot higher than some other developed countries - in my opinion, this is because children spread germs like nobody's business! It's not their fault, especially young children aren't as careful with their hygiene as senior school age children or adults (though a lot of them are poorly educated too and are as bad as little kids when it comes to hygiene - honestly, the looks you get sometimes when you're out and about and going to eat and bring out some hand sanitiser before you touch your food, it's like forbidden fruit!), so one selfish person sends in their child with something or other and a few days later, everyone has it!

So, should children be treated as a statistic, or should each case be looked at individually before the welfare decide on giving out a fine or worse? Because, I would feel much more fairly treated if they stopped treating my son as a statistic - stopped saying that because he isn't an average person when it comes to illness, that we must be keeping him off for no good reason, and actually look at the circumstances on an individual basis.

Right, onto the fines for being late to school. I only heard about this today, but apparently they are going to charge you a £60 fine if your child is late more than 10 times in 12 weeks (i.e. the equivalent of 2 out of the 12 weeks) - do you think this is fair?

Well again, a look at each child's/parents circumstances is important I think. And also, by how much they are late - yes being late is disruptive, but there's a difference between 1 minute late and 1 hour late. Occasionally, my son gets there late - well literally just as the school gates are closing and has to go in through the office, this gets him marked as late, but in reality, the other kids haven't even gone into class or settled by this point, so I'd hardly say that was causing disruption. It is very, very rare that he is more than 5 or 10 minutes late, but he is very hard to motivate to get going in the morning - both me and my husband are not morning people at all, we always manage to get up early for school though and wake him and try and prompt him along, but sometimes he just can't get going. Sometimes I put this down to illness - as I know he sleeps bad in the night sometimes and walks around sleepy looking all day long, but he still goes to school, he has to, but on those days in particular it's very hard to get him to wake up, get out of bed, have breakfast and get ready for school and get there on time. He's 11 years old, I'm not going to barge into his room and dress him, throw him over my shoulder and carry him to school! I can try to inspire, encourage and even tell him off, but if that doesn't work, how is fining me going to help him get there on time?  On the days he is ill, but goes to school, but has slept bad in the night, I don't really think that is something they should fine you for though. At the end of the day, he's there even though he really looks beyond worse for wear.

I think fines aren't really a good punishment anyway for lateness. If a child is late for school because they have stood around in the shop or chatting to their friends or something, then yes, punish them, give them detention or something deemed appropriate. I'm not sure fining the parent(s) is the way to go though. Particularly with senior school children, most go to school on their own, so the parent wouldn't know. And they may say, well you should take them to school and make sure they get there on time - that's a fair enough idea, but... What if they take themselves to school and their parent(s) go to work, I'm not sure their parent(s) boss(es) would appreciate them saying they'd have to come in to work an hour later as they had to walk their teenager to school every morning!

A single parent with 4 children of different ages, may well struggle to get their children to school on time due to the sheer lack of help, should he/she be punished for this with a fine? Or should their individual circumstances be looked at? Again, should the children be looked at on an individual basis and not just as a statistic?

Right, finally, onto the ban from taking your children out of school in term time for a holiday - do you think this is right?

As long as your child(ren) have good attendance, it used to be at the school's discretion as to whether they could have an holiday of up to 14 days during term time, but now, they say you're not allowed to at all.

Right, this one hasn't particularly affected us, but some people work hard year round, but may only be able to afford a family holiday in term time, as let's face it, especially with these new rules, the price of an holiday during school holidays is going to zoom up even higher than it already was! Should the hard working parent(s) be unable to take a short holiday with their child(ren) during term time when they can actually afford a holiday? Don't they deserve it? And would it really make that big a difference to their learning?

When I was young, at my schools (both primary and secondary), there were a lot of Muslim children, I remember some of them being granted (on more than one occasion) 2 or 3 months at a time off to go back to their country and visit their family - hardly seems fair, that children from this country in the first place aren't even allowed a short break with their family. It shouldn't be one rule for some people, and a different rule for everyone else! And, on the subject of fairness, Muslim children are allowed time off for Eid Mubarak, even though this is during term time, regardless of it being of significant importance to them, should they be allowed to take time off? If children get fined for being ill or going on holiday, then it's not at all fair that they are allowed time off during term time, is it? I don't mean to specifically use Muslims as my source of rage, it's just as there were a lot in my school and now in my son's school, it's easy to see what is different and acceptable for them compared to us and point it out.

I would love to know what other people's opinions on all this are, so please leave me a comment and let me know what you think...


  1. Wowser- you ARE p***ed off, and justifiably IMHO! You've made some really clear and valid points, so while I agree with you, I'm going to play devils advocate a bit.... ;) LOL!
    Health absences- Many parents will agree that as soon as their children start school or return after the holidays they become ill- all those germs in stuffy classrooms. Not great for anyone with a weakened immune system :/. As more parents rely on schools for their childcare, they can't afford to take time off to look after their child just in case that vague tummy ache has them projectile vomiting by 10am. Selfish? Maybe, but this has evolved from families now being dependent on wages simply to keep a roof over their heads as housing costs have spiralled out of control.
    Children are indeed individuals and just as they have different educational needs, they have different health needs. If adults have frequent illnesses at work they're invited to occupational health to see how they can be supported rather than penalised. Surely a better approach?
    Compare this analogy to punctuality. If we were continually late for work, we would be put on a disciplinary or have our pay docked, so one might argue we're preparing older pupils by helping them to understand the importance of turning up on time. However, with primary pupils, it is the responsibility of parents, who may be struggling themselves with different issues. Again, they need support, but at the end of the day, unpalatable as it may be, some ARE simply feckless and a fine may be just the boot up the bum they need!
    Again, individual circumstances should always be considered before drastic action that may alienate the parents against the school is taken.
    Finally- school holidays, ARGGGHHH! In an ideal world, holidays in August would cost the same as in June, but places during holidays would sell out much, much quicker, so greater planning needed. With the best will in the world, it can and does disrupt the child's education, but I understand that a family holiday is a very worthy reason for absence. I understand why you may have looked at Muslims as an example, but they're not the only ones. Jehovah's Witness children are taken out for their conventions / assemblies and removed from some lessons in schools, as are Plymouth Brethren. We've had children going to visit family for weddings, funerals etc in the Caribbean for weeks at a time. I think that all these groups would justifiably "Kick off" and shout about their beliefs, cultures not being respected and recognised if there was a total clampdown. At schools where there are lots of forces families, it's well known that children have time off when Dad returns for a tour and authorised by the school, so this too is different rules for different groups.
    And what about those who work in schools, colleges etc? They have no choice but to fork out all that extra or opt for a cheaper holiday. (Camping CAN be fun!) Particularly frustrating if their own children are grown & flown so that they still have to pay exterminate rates and go to resorts crowded with children. Much as they enjoy children, (One would hope as they've chosen to work with them!) they would much prefer a more peaceful adult orientated holiday, but they are few & far between in August. The argument that they're well paid so can afford it doesn't wash as there are many low paid workers, e.g TAs, crossing patrols, lunchtime supervisors, etc in schools too.
    More than a comment here, eh?
    Not disagreeing, as I say, you have presented a very clear and valid case for reconsideration. Just another perceptive.

    1. Thanks for your reply. Yes, I can see that some parents are at work and if their child is off school ill, they have no one to mind them, but I think again this is a fault that lies with schools or maybe more appropriately so, the government. The government should offer childcare at their expense when a child is too ill for school - they expect parents to work full time, so they should also be supportive of those parents by providing them with childcare for when the child is ill, because it is still not fair on the other children for a sick child to go in be spreading their germs to everyone - it often not only causes other children to be off ill, but I remember back to my childhood, when something was going around, it also led to teacher absences with illness too, so whilst it may not be fair to the parents' bosses for them to need time off when their child is ill, it affects even more people when they send their child to school, so one persons actions can cause a lot of problems for many, many other people. Maybe it's even a companies responsibility to realise people with children may need additional time off if their child(ren) are ill. Maybe between the government and companies, they could work something out between them that would make it possible for the parents to either look after their sick children themselves or find their sick children childcare.

      The school do supposedly invite you to discuss your children's problems, but they already a set plan - they don't ask any specifics, they basically just slap a fine on you and then say if it doesn't improve, they'll take further action. As a good example, my sister has been suffering with extreme stomach problems for years and she is off school quite a lot, she goes to the doctors/tests at the hospital etc., her school recently called my Mum in for such a said 'talk', but all they did was give her a fine and tell her whenever my sister is off school, she has to phone them and they will come and take her to school anyway and THEY will decide if she is well enough or not. They only have to confirm with the doctors/hospital without doing this, it's beyond ridiculous! And clearly shows how they do not look at each case individually based on the facts presented to them. They have no interest in talking it through or support, they have a clear goal, a fine or further punishment. 1/2

    2. Yes, I agree there should be a punishment for repeated lateness, but not a fine, it should be a punishment for the child, such as detention or something, if they are late because of their general lack of 'get up and go' and messing around in the shops, if it is down to the parents, before something so harsh as a fine, they should at least take the time to find out the reasons behind the lateness and ask if there is any support they could offer. All a fine will do, is leave that family bitter, short of money and possibly unable to buy the things they need or pay their bills that week! That's really going to be great encouragement too them to do better :/ I agree that some parents just take no interest and don't make any effort and yes, they should be fined, but the only way they'd figure this out and be punishing the right people is to treat each case individually and see the circumstances surrounding it on a one-to-one basis.

      The holidays and stuff, I'd say "that's just life, work around it" but only if the same rules applied to everyone. Maybe the thing that annoys me most is that it doesn't. It's not just religious holidays, when I was a kid, they were given 2/3 months off just to go and visit relatives in the country them came from - I'm not saying they don't miss their family, but if you live the opposite end of the country to your family in the UK, I'm going to guess you wouldn't even be allowed a week off to go and visit your relatives?! My husband's family live in Hampshire (where he is from originally), now even if David had good attendance, I could imagine the school's response to us if we asked if we could keep him off for a week to go and visit relatives! It cannot be one rule for one group of people and different for another. Either everyone gets only set holidays off or everyone can have the same amount of time off as others if that is acceptable. I've seen a petition as there are so many angry parents about not being allowed to take time for a holiday and it's got a hell of a lot of signatures and growing every day, yet the government seem to be ignoring it - I was under the impression that the government worked for us and as such if enough people feel strongly about something, they look into it and possibly re-assess it, rather than just ignore it? Think that went out the window a long time ago!

      Anyway, thanks for your response, it's nice to hear what other people think about it too and other people's points of view. 2/2

  2. At our school if the kids get 100% attendance they get a tea party at the end of the year with the head daughter did win that last year , were as my sons attendance was less than 70%. I think it wrong to award anything to be honest - a child can't help being ill ...its not like they do it on purpose!

    1. Just out of curiosity, if you don't mind me asking, how does the school treat your sons absence? Because they clearly know you're not just keeping him off for the sake of it when your daughter has 100% attendance - just wondering if they take a different viewpoint on the absence of your son in light of the fact that your daughter has 100% attendance?

  3. I will never take my children out of school for a holiday. Speaking from personal experience, I was three days late into the start of a new term as my parents had taken me on holiday. At school I couldn't understand what they were doing in the maths class (this was extra maths, as I had passed the ordinary maths exam a year early). I couldn't catch up, dropped out of the class and didn't get that extra qualification.
    There is so much a child can miss by going on holiday. If a child is ill, then I think the teacher should be aware of what they have missed and give them notes etc. But teachers have enough work as it is, why should they do this for a child who has gone on holiday.
    Obviously, if your child is really ill they should not go to school but be cautious of the child that says "I don't feel well" all the time. My daughter said this yesterday but I sent her to school and she was absolutely fine!

    1. As I said, the holiday during school term time doesn't affect me, but I do know there are some parents that can only afford to go on holiday every few years, and because of the extortionate prices during the school holidays (and availability), sometimes they have no choice but to go during term time and if the child has good attendance, I don't see why that should be a problem to the school - as long as it is not a regular occurrence - they used to think it was acceptable, so why change it now? I was off school ill (rather than going on holiday we never went on holidays) a lot as a child, but I always caught up, I finished ahead of the rest of the school when I left primary school (significantly so), so my absence clearly didn't affect my learning.

      As for a child being ill, I think the teacher can help the child catch up if they're behind, if they bother to try. Get them doing some homework to help catch up if needed, like I said, I always managed just fine as a child and I was a huge amount of time every year and yet I finished way ahead of everyone else in the school when I left.

      I know if my son is faking it, but's he's never been one to put it on really - he enjoys school, he a very intelligent boy and he does embrace learning, he learns new things all the time voluntarily at home as well. On occasion he has, but if we're in doubt, we send him into school. But he is genuinely ill a lot more than the average child and I think schools need to provide support rather than dish out punishments as children can't help being ill! And not all children are the same, which is what they seem to forget.

  4. I was a teacher for 20 years and I know how it affects a child's learning when they miss time through lateness/illness/holiday. I knew which kids were genuine though and would offer help to them and their parents. The new idea of fining parents really isn't going to achieve anything though as kids will still get ill and be unable to go to school but it would help if they could do some work at home (depending on their illness of course). A lot of lateness can be avoided by people changing their routines slightly but again it depends on circumstances. The schools i worked at had prizes for perfect attendance every year for the students and the teachers too and I think that worked well. I think the fines for lateness should be only for persistent offenders of extreme lateness who have made no effort to improve. I'm sympathetic to people wanting to take their children on holiday during term time because of the expense during school holidays but also isn't education more important than holidays. Yes, we all love holidays but they're not a God given right they are a privilege, find something cheaper to do, your kids will still enjoy it.

    1. I agree that giving the children some work to do at home whilst off sick would help - when I was little and off school ill, I used to always get some work brought to me to do. But my son's school has never done this. Fining doesn't achieve anything because at the end of the day, if a child is ill, they are ill and a fine isn't going to make them suddenly any better!

      Again, I agree with you on the late fines too, they should on;y be used in extreme cases and in other cases, I feel it is the school's duty to try and help the parent(s) and child(ren) if they can to help them improve.

      As for the holidays, yes it is a privilege, but a holiday can be every bit as educational as being at school, in fact sometimes more so. I know maybe not all parents do, but when we've been on holiday we always try to fit in educational stuff in a fun way so that our son is learning stuff whilst having fun too. Now, we don't go on holidays in term time anyway, so as I said, it doesn't directly affect us, but I know it does affect a lot of people and seems unfair that they are not allowed a short amount of time away from school.

      To be honest, if my son's school spent less time dawdling over teaching the kids would have spare time - my sons whole class is behind on their learning for their SATs this year because of the poor teaching at the school and they are now off until 22nd April for Easter, but the kids have to go into school (well, it is "optional but beneficial") for them to go into school every morning next week for extra education so they might actually stand a chance of having learnt enough in time to do their SATs exams - this makes me sick personally - maybe if they spent less time teaching them subjects likes maths in a stupid roundabout way and more time getting on with it, the poor children wouldn't have to spend their school holidays in school catching up on their learning! It's not okay for a child to be off school ill, but it is okay for them to be in school learning during their school holidays because of poor teaching! Furious, doesn't even begin to explain how I feel on this!!