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 MorganI 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