SEND Focus: When attendance goals are out of reach for pupils with health problems

A leading expert in disability studies asks what allowances schools are making for children with SEND when rewarding 100% attendence

Katherine Runswick-Cole

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Many schools in the UK have a policy of recognising 100 per cent attendance and celebrate this at termly intervals by handing out certificates of good attendance in assemblies. The understandable aim is to demonstrate the value of attendance to children and parents in a meaningful way.

But what does this mean for those children whose chances of getting a certificate are severely reduced? These are children with disabilities or long-term health conditions. If your health condition means that you are more prone to colds or that you need regular hospital appointments, then the certificate of 100 per cent attendance becomes an unachievable goal. How must it feel to go through your whole school career, as many of those children will, and never get the attendance certificate and chance to celebrate in assembly? 

Reasonable adjustments

The Equality Act (2010) demands that schools make "reasonable adjustments" to meet the needs of their disabled pupils, so how can schools make reasonable adjustments to attendance policies so no child is in the position of having very little chance of ever getting that certificate? 

It’s a complex question, made more difficult by the fact that school leaders are under pressure from the Department for Education to promote good attendance and reduce absence. So far, I have not come across any examples of schools meeting this challenge –please do get in touch if you have found a solution.

Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole is a senior research fellow in disability studies and psychology at the Social Change: Community Wellbeing Research Centre at Manchester Metropolitan University. She tweets at @k_runswick_cole

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Katherine Runswick-Cole

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