My KCC Election Manifesto & Video

Monday, 4 July 2016

Charles Dickens School: +10 Days Absence =£10 Fine

On Saturday I received a letter from the new headteacher of my daughter’s school,  Charles Dickens. He was quite properly raising the issue of school  attendance stressing the importance of students being at school 95% of the time. However he then went on to say that any student whose attendance falls below 95% will be required to produce medical evidence for the absence – by which I presume he means GP letter/ certificate covering each day of absence. This is totally over the top and unnecessary. The school already has systems and staff in place to deal with attendance  matters. Also GPs do not issue certificates until a sickness absence is longer than 7 days. For shorter periods the GPO can charge – often between £10-15 per certificate. So what we have here is a school absence policy which amounts to parents being fined by having to produce certificates for which they might have to pay.

There are many legitimate reasons why a student might be absent from school for more than 10 days per year like long term illness, disability, caring for family members, family issues. To impose a blanket policy like this, without the courtesy of consulting parents is both arrogant and plain stupid and I hope the headteacher thinks again. Here’s a copy of an e-mail I have sent to him. Wonder what he might say.

Dear Mr Morgan
I am in receipt of your letter to parents about school attendance. Whilst I agree with you about the need for pupils to attend school on a regular basis I do not agree with your new blanket policy  that “any student whose attendance falls below the minimum national standard of 95% will not  have absences routinely  authorised and medical evidence will need to be provided”.
I take it that medical evidence means the provision of a  doctor’s  “fit note” for each day’s absence after a student falls below  95% attendance rate. In case you have failed to check Government guidance on the issuing of fit notes states they can only be issued after 7 days of sickness. If a fit note is required to cover a shorter period of absence, as you policy appears to suggest,  then the GP is entitled to charge a fee, usually between £10-15.
 A significant number of your students live in families with extremely limited income. To force them to pay out £10-15 per day for fit notes is grossly unfair and totally unnecessary. The school already has in place pastoral care services which are there to deal with absence issues. There is no need, therefore, to impose what amounts to a fining system for the families of children whose attendance falls below 95%.
Furthermore, your school includes many students who suffer long term illness, have disabilities, who are carers  for others, or who are living in very difficult family circumstances. These students are very likely to have higher than average absence rates from school  but  now faced  being  penalised and discriminated against by your blanket policy on medical evidence. Indeed it is likely that your ill-considered policy may well be in breach of the Equality Act 2010 and that it may be unlawful.

I would be grateful if you could reconsider your decision to impose this policy. Indeed it would have been much better if you had consulted with parents before deciding the policy and perhaps a much more sensible approach could have be developed.
In the meantime I would be grateful if you could tell me if and when this new policy was discussed by the school governors. Could you also provide me with copies of any documents, reports etc provided to the governors on this matter and copies of  minutes  of these meetings. Please also tell me what evaluation/ research the school carried out to ensure that this new policy on absence is compliant with law, especially the Equality Act 2010 and is fair and proportionate.

I look forward to hearing from you.
Yours sincerely
Ian Driver

1 comment:

  1. The schools right to raise it but the evidence for longer absences could simply be a parents letter explaining disability etc.

    On schools why are Clarendon selling off the playing fields by their Business Manager? It seems a strange action and a rather fancy and expensive job tile given schools are funded by tax? What portion of their salary/pension/car/expenses could be redirtected to the school?