Bad excuses are one thing I never thought I would miss

Now that students can say they are self-isolating, there are no more ridiculous excuses for missing college – and Kirsty Walker misses them

Kirsty Walker

'Bad absence excuses: one thing I never thought I'd miss'

There have been so many things taken from us by the effect of Covid restrictions: college trips, after work drinks, parents’ evenings, and one I never thought I would miss: an endless parade of ridiculous absence excuses. What’s the point in weaving a wondrous web of lies when you can just say “I’m self-isolating” and no one will bat an eyelid?

Our college systems require evidence in the form of an uploaded document if there is to be authorisation for an absence. This is typically a doctor’s note, but students have taken this to mean any document which explains their absence, no matter how bizarre. I have had countless images of funeral Order of Service booklets, a certificate of cremation for a dog, and delivery confirmation emails for a range of white goods.

Yes, students routinely have a morning off to wait in for delivery of a fridge-freezer or an oven. I understand that the unexpected loss of such an appliance can be a huge disruption to family life, and for low-income families with younger kids in school and both parents at work, sometimes the only option for waiting in for deliveries is the teenager who attends college.

One student, however, had a grand total of eight freezers delivered in the space of six months, which made me slightly suspicious. A call home confirmed that their freezer was in perfect working order and had been for quite some time, and the family had no plans to open a branch of Iceland.


News: 64 colleges struggle with 'cash days' left

More by Kirsty Walker: Chancellor announces new funding for skills

Need to know: What it's like as a teacher in Liverpool


A range of excuses 

The modern blended family can sadly also lead to some additional bereavements. Aware of the old adage of the lazy worker who claims to have suffered several grandparent deaths, I once pulled up a student who said he needed to attend his gran’s funeral for the third time in a year. Turns out that, very sadly, he had two grandmas who had both died in the same year, followed a few months later by his step-grandma. I had not considered step-grandparents before but, of course, he did indeed have four grandparents and a bonus four from his step-mum and step-dad – as well as three step-uncles and four step-aunties.

Family matters are also tricky when there are new lives to contend with. A girl once told me of her plan to take a full week off when her sister had a baby. I asked if she had any kind of caring responsibility for this baby and she replied: “No, but you know, everything’s just mad, isn’t it?” I asked did the baby live with her? No, they lived over 80 miles away.

I called mum and it turned out that the entire commitment required of this young lady was that she travel with the family one Saturday to see this baby, and that home life was by no means “mad”, in fact it was her sister’s fourth child and, according to the mum, the student in question had shown zero interest in it until a bit of time off seemed to be on the cards.

Alas, these days are gone. What I wouldn’t give right now for a student to submit an authorised absence request with an invitation to a cat’s wedding. Mind you, it would probably be cancelled due to Covid.

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Kirsty Walker

Kirsty Walker teaches at a college in the North West of England

Find me on Twitter @Kirstsclass

Latest stories

Covid in schools, GCSEs 2021, teacher safety: LIVE

Coronavirus and schools: LIVE 18/1

A one-stop shop for teachers who want to know what impact the ongoing pandemic will have on their working lives
Tes Reporter 18 Jan 2021