Attendance slips in the big freeze

1st May 2009 at 01:00

I am chair of governors of a primary in south-east London that has been working hard to improve its attendance figures. We have just been looking at our recent scores, which show a serious dip in early January. This will have an adverse impact on our overall percentages.

We were forced to close on day one of "the great snow" because many of our teachers live at a distance from the school but do not have cars, and so travel in by public transport. In London, there were no trains or buses on that first day and virtually no underground trains.

On day two, all our staff managed to get in and the school was open. We put notices on the school gates and one of our parent governors organised a text tree to tell as many parents as possible that we were open. We sent word out across our close-knit community. We were congratulated by our local authority for our efforts.

In spite of this, only about 100 of our 300 children turned up. There are a number of reasons for this. Many pupils have older siblings whose schools were still closed. The parent governor who organised the text tree dragged in her protesting daughter, leaving her secondary-aged son at home. She was in the minority.

Other parents assumed that reports that we were open were wrong as neighbouring schools were closed. Some parents, because of their financial circumstances, did not have appropriate footwear and were unwilling to tackle the slippery pavements.

The schools that remained closed will not be penalised. Yet our low level of attendance on that day will count against us and bring down our average figures.

I do hope that when the Department for Children, Schools and Families looks at our attendance figures, there will be some adjustment, or we shall have been penalised for our determination to provide for our local community.

Dinah Griffiths, Chair of governors, Childeric Primary School, Lewisham, London.

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