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Head teacher of Staplehurst primary apologises after attendance reward scheme backfired

A head teacher has apologised following the decision to reward children with a 100% attendance record with a “dress down” day – forcing pupils who had been off sick to arrive in their uniform.

Youngsters with a 100% attendance figure at Staplehurst School were told they could wear their own clothes on a chosen day, but their peers who had been off during term time were made to wear the school’s uniform.

The Gybbon Rise primary school issued an apology to parents and carers the same day, stating it was not their intention to penalise youngsters unfairly.

School entrance.Staplehurst Primary School, of Gybbon Rise, Staplehurst, is taking part in the KM Kidabout competition to win play equipment. (NB no names permitted).Picture: Andy Payton FM4413521 (2387576)
School entrance.Staplehurst Primary School, of Gybbon Rise, Staplehurst, is taking part in the KM Kidabout competition to win play equipment. (NB no names permitted).Picture: Andy Payton FM4413521 (2387576)

One parent, who did not want to be named, said some children are forced to call in sick due to poor health and on the advice of qualified doctors.

She said: “They have had a real crackdown on attendance. They were saying there is no reason anyone should be off school.

“On the last day of term the school gave out leaflets saying the children who haven’t been poorly can come in wearing non-uniform on the first day back.

“There were 220 pupils who were allowed in non-uniform and there were around 200 in uniform.”

“It seems unfair on the children who are poorly. The children in uniform are being isolated and being made to stand out of the crowd.

“Most schools reward children with perfect attendance with a certificate. Some children have long-term health problems and can’t go to school every day.”

The school’s effort to increase its attendance figures has seen a new “robust” system which punishes children for regular days off and late attendance.

“It seems unfair on the children who are poorly. The children in uniform are being isolated and being made to stand out of the crowd" - parent

Non-uniform days have been implemented on previous occasions to reward all pupils of the school for the improvement in attendance figures but this is the first time those with an exemplary record have been solely rewarded.

In a letter written to parents and guardians on Monday, Amanda Stevenson, acting head teacher, said: “We have had some extremely positive feedback from the children who have enjoyed wearing their own clothes today but we now realise this has caused some upset amongst a small minority of families who feel their children have been penalised unfairly.

“This was definitely not the intention. We fully recognise children are sometimes genuinely ill or have to attend medical appointments.

“With hindsight we should have anticipated some of the children, who had not achieved 100% attendance, may feel disappointed if they had missed out by only a narrow margin.”

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