Skip to content ↓


School attendance is of the utmost importance to the Department for Education (DfE) and this is demonstrated in their new guidance that will come into place in September. Working together to improve school attendance has been produced to help schools promote and maintain high levels of school attendance. 

With the government advising that good attendance is incentivised throughout school life, schools are taking steps to reward children for 100% attendance. Different schools are doing this in various ways. 

At Thameside, we recognise that poor attendance is often not within the child’s control and although the DfE’s guidance for improving attendance states that demonstrating the benefits of good attendance should be done ‘sensitively and without discrimination’, many children can feel disheartened by individual awards for 100% attendance.

In fact, many educators and parents question whether attendance awards are ethical for a variety of reasons, including the following:

Parents are responsible, not children

Primary-aged children are not responsible for their attendance. This responsibility falls on their parents.

Does luck need rewarding?

No one is going to deny that schools can be a breeding ground for germs, bugs and illnesses. With so many children in such close proximity sharing the same resources and spaces, illnesses are going to spread. Some children may get lucky and avoid coming down with any illness but that is exactly what this is – luck. This is not within the child’s (or parent’s) control. 

School > health 

Some argue that these awards place a higher value on going to school over matters of both physical and mental health and that this sends children the wrong message. 

School is undeniably important but health and wellbeing come first and foremost. Children may have complex medical needs requiring them to attend multiple hospital and doctor's appointments, they may have experienced bereavement and missed days of school while they were grieving, or they could be experiencing Emotionally Based School Avoidance. Children must be never vilified for this.  

The message that school is more important than health can also encourage children to attend school even when they are unwell, spreading germs and viruses and further increasing absences. 

A matter of victim blaming?  

When attendance is rewarded on a whole-class basis, children who have poor attendance (for whatever reason this may be) may feel that they are ‘letting down’ the rest of the class by causing the attendance rate to drop. If the other children in the class feel frustrated about this they may potentially vent their frustrations towards the child with poor attendance and this could potentially lead to bullying.

What will Thameside do instead to encourage good attendance?

Personalised targets 

Miss Roseaman (our Family Hub Lead) works with our families to identify and break down any barriers linked to a child's poor attendance and sets appropriate personalised targets for families to work towards. Please contact Moss Roseaman on this email address if you would like some support to improve your child's attendance:

Encourage differently

We have a standing item in our weekly newsletter which promotes the benefits of good attendance, explaining to families how attendance links to positive academic outcomes and helps to build and foster good relationships. We speak to children at school about these benefits too.

Through our  'Attendance Celebration Days' the school plans to work collectively towards an attendance target so that no child feels singled out during this process. Each short term, we will have a whole school attendance target to work towards and, if the target is reached by the end of that term, we will celebrate this as a whole school.

Children have helped us to come up with a variety of motivational ideas for our Attendance Celebration Days including:

  • wear a hat for the day (silly or sensible!)
  • bring a cuddly toy to school for the day (named!)
  • wear your own clothes day
  • wear a sport kit/uniform to school
  • crazy hair
  • fancy dress
  • wear certain colours to school
  • face paint or mask
  • wear jeans
  • party glam wear
  • pyjamas for the day
  • wear a wig
  • wear brights: neons, sequins, sparkles

Taking part in Attendance Celebration Day activities will be completely optional and the rewards chosen will be easy for parents/carers to support.

Thank you so much for your support! #attendancematters