5:00 AM. I awake to the sound of a crying child, staggering across the landing. Child Unit 2 is awake and feeling a little sorry for himself, hurrying to the toilet to, how can I put it delicately? Puke his tiny guts up. Having spoken to god on the great white telephone and after a cuddle and clean-up, the boy seems absolutely hunkydory-doodledandy-fit-as-a-butcher’-dog. Back to sleep.
7:30 AM. I awake to the sound of a wailing alarm clock and after performing the normal morning routine, wash stuff, brush things, cover bits with clothes and fall down the stairs, I find Child Units 1 and 2 perched on the sofa, watching Doctor Who. They devour a hearty breakfast of porridge-like substance and cheerily ready themselves for school. Marital Unit and I decide that Child Unit 2 is hale and hearty and perfectly capable of attending school. Nevertheless, we agree that it would be best to notify the school of his night time eructations, just in case any further pukey problems arise.
After throwing the Child Units from a moving vehicle in the general vicinity of the Education Pod, I shot home to make a few phone calls and hurl cuss-words at telesales callers. Around ten o’ clock, I realised that i’d forgotten to let the school know about the late night Exorcist episode from the boy and gave them a quick call. “He’s fine…probably something he ate…happy as larry this morning…yeah i’ll come and collect him”. Balls.
As it turns out, if a child is sick during the night, you’re supposed to keep him home from school for 24 to 48 hours. OK, fair dinkum, sure, why not? I went straight up to collect him and now he’s happily feckin’ about on Banjo-Kazooie and occasionally issuing a smug grin for getting out of a day’s learnin’, good for him. I don’t blame the boy, I don’t blame the school, I don’t blame anyone necessarily, but I am a bit flummoxed.
Y’see, we recently had a letter from the school authorities, explaining that there was a new sheriff in tow…sorry, i’ve been watching a lot of John Wayne films. The letter explained that there was a new attendance policy in place and parents of students who missed too many sessions (two sessions to a day) would be fined. The letter spoke of unauthorised absence, which would basically refer to any sick day where you didn’t get a doctor’s note and the like.
I’m sure this is all good, right? I mean, obviously we need to make sure kids don’t miss too much school. There’s just a couple of wee problems with it…
First up, there’s the fact that Child Unit 1 has asthma and Child Unit 2 has tonsils that look like an allergy prone elephant’s bee-stung testes, so the slightest hint of a cough, cold or bug and the pair of them sound like Darth Vader choking on a peanut. If one of them has been awake all night coughing their lungs out, chances are i’ll deem it necessary to keep them off school. I could send them in, but they’ll fall asleep face down in their watery gruel and they’ll be far too tired to operate a loom, so i’m not sure what good the school thinks they’ll be?
Also, there’s a note in the letter about “exceptional circumstances”, which is entirely fair. One report that I read mentioned allowing children absence to tie in with a family member’s leave from the armed forces and quite rightly so, that’s the kind of exception that I fully endorse. But there was also mention of “parents in good standing” or words to that effect and that didn’t sit quite right with me. Who is a parent in good standing? If I pay for the school to have gold plated toilets, can I take the kids to Butlins for a week in term time? If I punch a teaching assistant, do they have to go in on Saturdays?
The worst part is that the school actually hands out certificates for perfect or near-perfect attendance, which makes those unfortunate enough to be born without Wolverine’s healing ability feel bad when the incredibly immune children (or those who are tied to a school chair home hell, high water or haemophilus influenzae) are rewarded for their attendance record. The poor buggers who did nothing wrong, save not managing to fight off one of the hundreds of bugs, viruses and government created nano-plagues (i’m on to you, Cameron) which are floating around the school yard on a day to day basis, are left feeling as though they have somehow done wrong, with no real idea what it is they’re supposed to have done.
If my children are sufficiently unwell, they stay home from school. I’m not saying they’re hauled out for every sniffle, but I won’t send them in with fluids coming from every orifice and a temperature which can melt tooth enamel. If that means they miss out on a bit of blue paper and a handshake from the head, so be it. Sooner that than puking in the pencil pots.
The village school is fantastic, don’t think i’m knocking it. The problem is, as has long been the problem with our education system, that somebody seems to be employed solely to come up with bullshit. The Office Of Bullshit. Bullshit Production Team. They’re out there! Five or six of them, crowded into a dingy basement room, bitter and twisted wee bastards who’ve not seen daylight in sixty years.
BULLSHITTER 1: “What can we do to screw with them today?”
BULLSHITTER 2: “Well, i’ve been working on a little something. How about making a really big deal out of attendance. Schools will send letters home, come up with bullshit…”
ALL: “BULLSHIT!” *salute*
BULLSHITTER 2: “…little reward schemes, anything to make sure bums are in seats, given the fear of god we’ll put into them.”
BULLSHITTER 3: “Hmm, yes. Yes it has potential, but might I suggest one small change?”
BULLSHITTER 1: “Proceed.”
BULLSHITTER 3: “We make it policy for children who have been sick within the last 48 hours to remain home so as not to contaminate other children. It doesn’t matter if it’s something they ate or they’ve made themselves gag, they stay home. That way, even parents who are trying their damnedest won’t be able to achieve perfect attendance!”
*much orgasmic writhing*
That’s exactly how it happened. Weird, troll people coming up with crap in a basement. I may be a tad sleep deprived. Anyway, that’s the problem. It’s all bullshit.