'Outdated and redundant' - backlash for Morley school's '100 per cent attendance' rewards scheme

The head of a south Leeds school has responded to social media criticism, insisting a "100 per cent attendance" scheme makes allowances for students with disabilities and health conditions.

By Richard Beecham
Monday, 11th July 2022, 8:41 am

The Morley Academy this week tweeted a photograph of students at an ice cream van, with a caption suggesting they were being rewarded for 100 per cent attendance throughout the school term.

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Social media users and Morley residents condemned the post, claiming that it was unfair to children with long-term illnesses and disabilities, and that such a scheme might pressure children with illnesses to attend school.

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But the school's headteacher told the YEP that 100 per cent attendance was a "huge achievement", and that students would be exempt for bereavement, religious reasons or for medical appointments or long-term conditions.

The tweet, posted on Thursday, read: "100% Attendance Club. Students in the club received a visit from the ice cream van yesterday as a reward for their exceptional attendance! We hope you enjoyed your treat, keep it up! #attendancematters."

The post was also retweeted by Morley and Outwood MP Andrea Jenkyns.

Morley resident Carla Morris said: "The students could be suffering with or recovering from illness, they could be being bullied or experiencing abuse at home.

The school has been criticised for the scheme.

"It's really down to luck, and it is not in the students' control. If they get ill and come into school, it will be more likely that every pupil is sick.

"Rewards like this should not be down to luck, it should be based on academic achievement or behaviour.

"I really feel like they should review what kinds of messages they are sending out here - these policies are outdated and redundant now."

The academy had switched off the Twitter "reply" function, but many social media users quoted the post to say how damaging they thought the policy to be.

A user by the name of Scott R said: "I wonder what message this sends to children and young people who do not have the same opportunities; children with long term health conditions who have to attend hospital appointments, attending CAMHS or young carers looking after family.

"The reality is, this is much more complex than who is or isn’t showing up to school - but it’s often reduced down to concrete percentages. There is NO ice cream van for children and young people who have experienced adversity or challenge; just the expectation that they need to do better."

Ryan Hendry said: "I hate these awards, I genuinely think they are absolutely pointless, and this is why - 100 per cent attendance is purely down to luck. All it means is you didn’t get sick, or have a day where personal circumstances dictated you could not make it to school. It has no purpose. None."

Adam Ryder, Principal at The Morley Academy said: "We recognise 100 per cent attendance as being a huge achievement and our 100 per cent attendance club celebrates and rewards students for this through several celebration activities, trips and pop-up events throughout the year.

“We do, however, recognise that in some cases, absence from school is unavoidable. Parents and carers can fill out an exceptional circumstances form for instances such as family bereavement, funerals, to mark a religious observance or to attend medical appointments for life-long medical conditions. During the Covid-19 pandemic, self-isolation was also exempt.

“Students who maintain their attendance above 97 per cent are also able to partake in several of the reward activities that celebrate attendance.

“The Government has made attendance of students at all stages of their education a national priority. We have a range of strategies in place to work with and support our families with attendance of their children and we are very proud of the way in which we work together as a school community to support high levels of attendance at school.”