My son finished his first term at school a few weeks ago, and he came home with a “perfect attendance” certificate. Well done, little man! I was quite pleased and proud until I realised that my daughter, who had also been at school every day, did not have one. Maybe she would get hers once she went back to school in January? No, she told me that they had had a grand presentation during assembly on the last day of term.
What was more frustrating was that my daughter had actually been at school for more days than my son. They had a staggered entry into Reception, and he started a couple of weeks after her. She has a medical condition that means she has a few hospital appointments a term, but I had checked with school about the new attendance policy, and was assured that I didn’t need to bring her in before a 9 am appointment for her to get her mark. She also suffers from fatigue, so having a full term at school was actually a real achievement.
Why does this bother me?
I spoke to her class teacher, and after a couple of conversations between her and the Head, my daughter was slipped a certificate. Yes, I could just let this go and not be worried about it. After all, it’s just a bit of paper. What does it matter?
That’s the thing. I even know how I could get around it. My daughter has a physio appointment at 9 am in July, and I could take her to school with my son for 8.35, then race like mad to make the appointment. This way she would get her mark and no-one would be any the wiser. I could buck the system to make sure she has a “perfect” attendance record, even though she will have been out of school at some point.
Bucking the system
I can’t help thinking of the other children who can’t do this, though. What about those who have more serious medical conditions? Or have a family bereavement, and need a day off to attend a funeral? But, DOES IT REALLY MATTER ANYWAY? (Are you getting a sense of the sorts of arguments I have in my own head?)
Well, I think it does. In life, there are times when systems are unfair and if no-one speaks up, nothing changes. Take the recent attempt by the government to take away child tax credits. I am fairly certain that it was not just those in receipt of that benefit that stood up to fight for it. I am not sure how people could have “bucked the system” in this case, but there are plenty of other times in which we can.
Take the car parking system at a hospital a few miles from here. You have to type in your registration number as you pay on the way out. How many people get this wrong after a distressing meeting with a relative or a consultant, and are then charged the earth for doing so? In this situation, we could just fight for get our own money back, or we could write to the hospital, who allow the company to do this, or our MP to let them know what is happening to vulnerable people.
We may be happy if we get our own money back, but how much better is the sense of satisfaction for having helped other people, and beaten the money-grabbing corporations? There is more of a sense of social justice, and a feeling that we have helped those who may be less articulate than ourselves, and may not have the strength to fight back in these situations.
Perhaps by fighting back for others, we may be blessed by having folk who have fought a cause when we are not in a position to do so.
Changing the system
Where does that leave me? Yes, I am going to make an appointment to see the Head Teacher and discuss my views on the system. I have a positive suggestion of how the school could make a change, rather than just going in with the negatives. I may not be able to sway her, but I have to try, for my daughter’s sense of self-worth.
Have you changed a system? Or is there something you would like to change?
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