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Sittingbourne: Westlands School criticised for attendance incentive by mum of cancer patient

By KentOnline reporter

A mum has criticised a school’s cash incentive for pupils to turn up for the final days of term, saying it endangered her daughter who has battled cancer.

Youngsters at Westlands in Sittingbourne were entered into a prize draw to win £20 each day if they attended, with the chance of bagging £100 if they went on all five days.

In an email to parents, the secondary school said it was “a short rewards campaign” to “reward pupils who are coming to school and fighting off illnesses”.

Samantha Gregory with her daughter Shannon
Samantha Gregory with her daughter Shannon

But mum Samantha Gregory said the scheme encouraged parents to send their children in sick, which could endanger her 12-year-old daughter Shannon who has been fighting cancer for two years.

She vented her frustration in a Facebook video which was viewed more than 30,000 times and shared by nearly 700 people.

The 36-year-old, of Sheerness, said: “Children are desperate to win to the point that you are putting all these kids in danger.

The Westlands School in Sittingbourne
The Westlands School in Sittingbourne

“I’m not saying if your kid has got a cold you should take them out of school – that’s ridiculous. But if a child has been sick, it’s 48 hours out of school, if they have diarrhoea it’s 72 hours, that’s according to public health advice by the Government.

“I’ve got no problem with kids being rewarded for good attendance but when did it turn into that children need to be paid to go to school?

“It sends out the wrong message to kids that it’s wrong to be unwell. It’s very sad when kids feel like they can’t take the time to get better. My daughter has been through a hell of a lot in the last two years fighting a blood cancer. She has had a lot of chemo. It leaves her with no immunity so she can’t fight off infection. As a school they have a duty of care to make sure she’s safe.”

Miss Gregory apologised for calling a teacher a “moron” in the video and said she was “angry, scared and upset” at the time.

Westlands head Simon Cox
Westlands head Simon Cox

Westlands head Simon Cox said he believed rewarding good attendance was wholly appropriate.

He said: “We believe children with minor coughs, colds and sneezes should come to school Good attendance is the number one factor that has an impact on achievement. It’s entirely up to the parent if the child is well enough to attend school.

“I can’t please all of the parents all of the time but the fact that 321 parents have put us down as their first choice next year and there are waiting lists in virtually all age groups shows most parents really do agree with the school’s ethos.

“I find it disappointing that parents feel the need to go on Facebook and be abusive about a kind, caring and hard-working member of staff.”

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