During the run up to the Christmas period we often see a decline in the attendance rate of some children; especially towards the end of term.
The Christmas markets, shopping trips, snow, and the draw of early Christmas treats can lead to children being tempted away from school with some parents becoming more lenient towards their child’s school attendance.
Learning vs Lost Learning
It may feel like regular attendance is less important before a scheduled break in the school calendar, with parents and pupils believing lessons are more like parties than legitimate and productive learning experiences. However, whilst celebrations are indeed taking place, Year 11 pupils are taking mock exams, completing coursework and making preparations for GCSE exams. In other year groups, work may take on specific festive themes but continues within the wider curriculum. In all cases, lost learning is simply lost learning whatever the time of year.
Many schools now engage pupils with the offer of enrichment activities; with younger children traditionally being involved in school plays, concerts and performances whilst many high schools also stage drama performances and get involved in community events such as choirs and music events. Such activities form a vital part of the wider curriculum, encouraging personal development and forming important learning experiences.
The Christmas period can be a time of year when our most vulnerable pupils slip through the net, absent children get lost in the crowds and additional pressures on school staff make it more difficult to keep up with demands. It can be wrongly assumed that children are absent for reasons associated with Christmas celebrations.
At home, difficulties due to the financial and emotional strains of Christmas may cause family tension and breakdown. Many families find this time of year difficult to cope with and the NSPCC reports that Christmas can be one of the saddest times of year for children who’ve lost loved ones. Schools and others working with children are urged to be sensitive and look out for signs that families are struggling to cope. Coinciding with this is a sharp increase in self harm amongst teenagers and youth homelessness which often results from a breakdown in family relationships.
Schools and academies are required to follow safeguarding and attendance procedures to ensure that the whereabouts of all pupils are known throughout the school year. Prior to official breaks in the school calendar, it is more important than ever that establishments maintain good practice such as first day calling, home visiting and referring Children Missing from Education in order to support vulnerable pupils.