Saturday, 17 October 2015

Why is it always the children who most need school who are absent the most?

I've got no data to back up the assertion in the title of this post - but ask a primary school teacher which children are away the most, and they will most likely point to their special educational needs students. So - what are the reasons?

  1. Children with learning difficulties, especially dyslexics, are likely to be working harder than other children. Their brains are being challenged to perform in ways that are unnatural for them. Therefore they are likely to get more tired than other children, and tiredness leads to susceptibility to illness.
  2. Related to this, it's hard work trying to catch up and keep up. So if they are just a little unwell, their performance will be much poorer, and they will want to stay at home when their colleagues would still come in.
  3. Maybe the teacher has told the children that they will have a test the next day. Many children enjoy tests. But for special needs children, tests can be purgatory, because unlike regular teaching, tests are generally set at the same level for all children - a level that could be inaccessible to the student. Why turn up to school to fail? Hence there's more likelihood of telling mum that you're feeling ill the next morning.
  4. Children's learning difficulties may be linked with other medical problems, such as lingering congenital issues, or eyesight. So they have more appointments with medical specialists, and these specialists rarely work evenings and weekends - leading to more time off school.
  5. Finally, the vicious circle. Children who may not be categorised as having special needs, but whose parents do not value education, fall behind because their parents keep them out of school for reasons of domestic convenience. And naturally they fall further behind.

I don't offer any solutions here, other than to suggest that you ask yourself if your classroom is as enjoyable for (and accessible to) your special needs students as for the mainstream. We can't address all the social issues above, but they can be partially counteracted if these children want to come to school.

Given all the above, it would be astonishing if those who most need school weren't absent the most.

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