FROM THE CLASSROOM: School absences and your child

Sunday September 9 2018

Waheeda Samji

Waheeda Samji 

By Waheeda Shariff Samji

I have often wondered why, as parents, we are so lax about our children attending school every day in term time. Although for the most part, we all have annual school calendars sent to us well in advance of any planned vacations, we tend to plan a bit vaguely, and become flippant about our kids missing school for what are essentially elective days off.

We don’t think twice about our children missing the first few days of school to catch a few more vacation days, or about taking a long weekend off in term time. We are less cavalier when it applies to us – we certainly wouldn’t dream of taking a day more than is given of our leave time from work, and it wouldn’t even cross our minds to take the Monday off if a Tuesday is a public holiday. Is it because we think there are no ‘real’ consequences for our children missing school?

I am almost always taken aback when I see relatively low attendance rates at the start of each school year, with children trickling in even 2 weeks into the term! There is such a wealth of information out there on how these absences affect our kids, particularly at the start of the year or the term.

Learning to operate in new environment

The beginning of the school year is such an important time in class, with children entering a new grade, with a new teacher and new classmates. Expectations for the year, and norms of the classroom are set. Children learn to operate in a new environment, and with different rules (where to go for lunch, what to do with your bag).

It is a really important time of the year which cannot ever be caught up on. Children arriving late for the school year will often feel left out, and can take longer to make friends. Their anxiety often translates into less productivity in the classroom as well.

We tend not to realize just how much these absences have an impact on their lives, and we like to think that ‘its just a couple of days, how much will they do anyways?’ We expect class teachers to make an extra effort to make up for our children’s lost time, without understanding how the whole class gets held back while latecomers catch up.

We also forget that those are unlikely to be the only days the kids miss – invariably children will get sick and miss school, there might be rain days, or days when we have to get their passports renewed. These add up.

And from a purely financial point of view, we tend to forget the daily price we are paying for our children to be in school, whether it be $2/day or $200/day. Surely we have a responsibility to make certain our children get our money’s worth at least without missing a day!