Absenteeism in school

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Al-Watan

IN the United Kingdom, parents can get in trouble if their children absent themselves from school and in some cases can pay hefty fines. Schools and educational authorities do not accept excuses such as health condition, family problem or any other excuse except with an official proof.

If parents decide to not send their children to school, they have to contact the school and fill out proper forms in which they have to indicate the date and time the child will not attend school. They are required to furnish a formal request letter as well.

Once I filled out a form and sent it to the school but the principal refused to accept it and said, “We only approve 5 percent of such requests and the reason has to be health-related. Your son’s education is our responsibility. It is against our principles to let your son skip school.”

The principal’s secretary handed me a paper showing the fines parents should pay if they let their children, up to 11 years old, skip school. The paper explained the examples that gave the school the right to file a legal complaint against me for unjustified absenteeism. Parents over there do not have any authority over their children’s education.

I wondered then what was the big deal about letting your children skip school. After all, I’m the mother and I know better than the school when it comes to what is best for my son.

In fact, it is not like this. In the UK, there are reasons why schools do not take absenteeism lightly. If a child does not show up, the school will step in and investigate. If the parents need help or were involved in domestic violence, the schools will report the case. Therefore, if the parents do not state the reason why their child cannot go to school on a particular, they will face penal action.

Schools do not let children skip classes because this could lead to a waste of the school resources and might leave a negative impact on the children’s achievements and performance level. Every school in UK is worried about underachievement by any of its students because this can affect its reputation and competitive edge. The school administration takes class attendance seriously. Parents do too because they face severe consequences if they do not.

For some reason my children exceeded the number of permitted days of absence, a fact that I mentioned in the forms. I found myself bombarded with emails from the school asking me to explain the reason for absenteeism.

Discipline at school is important as it can have a positive impact on discipline in life. The only way to tackle the problem of absenteeism in our schools is to make the laws as crystal clear as possible and enforce them on all parents.


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