Treat Or Trauma?
I don’t get primary school attendance rewards. Genuinely don’t understand it, my mind boggles. I can’t think of any logical reasoning behind it. I’m sure the idea is to give parents a kick up the arse. Perhaps their children crying in assembly because they didn’t get a laminated certificate and chocolate treats will encourage them to ensure their child attends daily without fail. There are very clear issues with this whole system. How the powers that be can’t recognise them is beyond me.
There will always be parents that just don’t give a shit. The reasons for their apathy towards parenting could produce many a blog post, now isn’t the time. But if we’re blunt about it, there are mothers and fathers that just aren’t that bothered if their child goes or not. No amount of little Johnny whining that he wants the end of term award will convince them to change their ways.
There are parents with health issues, mental illnesses, disabilities and generally a lot else going on. The impending divorce, the cancer scare, the appointment with the community psychiatric nurse; things that *probably* overshadowed the need to get Janey to school every single morning for the last six weeks. Again, not much the child can do about that.
Many children have complex needs. A five day school week may be too much for the child born prematurely that struggles to keep up. Paediatric appointments sixty miles away usually mean making the gate for 8.45am a little tricky. Children have nightmares, disturbed sleep, treatments and therapies. Cut them some slack, their lives are pretty tough right now.
Kids get ill. While you recover from the shock, here’s a rough break down: colds, flu, tummy bugs, chicken pox, broken bones, asthma, ear infections, tonsillitis…
I’d much rather Susan stayed at home when ill, tucked up warm with a tin of Heinz’ finest, than at school spreading it to a class of 30, thanks. But the child that snots on everything all day and falls asleep over her lunchbox is the one that gets the sticker.
And it’s not just the attendance thing. Children miss out on edibles and a round of applause because mummy forgot the PE kit. No ingredients for cookery? Tough titties Declan, you’re sitting in the corner by yourself. Left your reading book in the car Jeremy? No lollipop for you.
It seems utterly cruel, to either give or take away rewards from children who have no control over the game. Where’s the inclusion? Stories of children on the ‘bad carpet’ or excluded from play break my heart. I know I’m not ok with the idea that my child might sit and watch her friends get chocolate when all she got this term was the norovirus.
I want children to *want* to go to school, no rewards involved. Maybe I’m being ridiculously naive and optimistic here, as a parent of a child not at school yet, but shouldn’t kids go to school because it’s fun? They skip with their friends, receive warm smiles from the teacher, get stuck in and find out some pretty cool stuff? And school should be awesome for *all* children, not just the gifted and talented ones, or the ones with the neatest hair and freshly polished shoes, or the ones that are the first through the gate. Every. Single. Day. When did school become about winning stuff? Are we preparing children for a future of rewards just for being on time? That’s not life.
These things are playing on my mind at the moment. I’m having to make decisions about Moos future. I think I’ve picked a wonderful pre school for her, nurturing, safe, fun – and not a bloody reward chart in sight. Whether I’ll find something similar for primary school in a years time is a little shaky. I have many dreams for her, but being subdued to silence by the threat of ‘being on amber’ is certainly not one of them. No child needs to see a sad face next to their name on the board. Primary school, all education, in fact, should be about building self esteem, enabling a child to develop into a well rounded human being, whilst discovering the world around them. It should not be about coercion, fear, embarrassment and disappointment.