A Little Moan

graphs job laptop papers
I’m going to have a little moan today, shocking I know. I have a 10-year-old and a 4-year-old, both currently at school in a town that we don’t live in, we were supposed to move there by the end of September/beginning of October, but our house sale fell through, so we are stuck with a tricky, long school run. This has been fine; the train has made us late twice since September but otherwise it’s just exhausting and annoying (oh and really expensive).
This weekend, the eldest lost her voice completely, had a harsh chesty cough, sore throat, headache and high temperature. By Monday morning there was no improvement, so I decided to keep her off. This, unfortunately, means keeping my youngest off too, it wouldn’t help the eldest to have to spend 4 hours on the train and walk approximately 3 miles. She was much the same on Tuesday morning. By Tuesday evening her voice was coming back and she was much perkier, I woke her up at 5.45am on Wednesday morning and she was tearful and complaining of a headache and feeling sick. She got ready for school, ate some cereal and started sobbing. My partner suggested that maybe she had just enjoyed having two days off and didn’t want to do the school run. That stung a bit because anyone that knows my daughter, knows she’s not that kind of kid, she’d tell me if she was just tired and unwilling.
I made the decision to not take her, and by default her brother, to school for the third day on the trot. I got a look of dismay but ignored it because I knew she wasn’t right. Less than an hour later she was vomiting, half-digested Weetabix, missing the bin I’d put by her bed, in pain from the act of it. I rubbed her back and cleaned up. She slept immediately.
Then, I had to phone school. Now, I can’t fault my kid’s school, they’ve been patient and understanding with our situation and they’ve welcomed my kids warmly. I will say it clearly, I know it’s not the school’s fault. They were surprised that the eldest was now vomiting, as was I and as was she. They asked if there was no way that I could get the youngest in; no, there isn’t, I have moved to a town where the only person I know is my partner, who has a full-time job and never really knows what time he will finish and who starts work at 8am. There is some flexibility to this but not enough to be ferrying my kids to and from school, he’s not normally home until well after 5pm. I don’t drive so I am reliant on public transport. There is nobody else and anyone with a poorly child knows that dragging them out of the house for 5-minutes is too much, let alone 3-hours in the morning and 3-hours in the afternoon. The lady in the office then said that the eldest wouldn’t be allowed back for two days and would I be able to get the youngest in? No. She said his absence has to be put down as unauthorised and that might be investigated and potentially lead to a fine. She then asked if I could get a medical certificate for my eldest as she’d be off for more than 3 days, because, you know, all illnesses last just 3 days. We don’t currently have a doctor’s surgery, we’re still registered in our old town so again, my answer was no.
Needless to say I am fuming; however, I am not fuming with the school, I am fuming at our government. In the time that my eldest has been at school the attendance targets for primary school children has gone from 90% to 97%. I can’t find any stats online to back this up but it’s what I remember. 97% is 6 days off throughout the whole school year. How can anyone expect to achieve this for every single child, as if we are given the exact same immune systems at birth and they remain the same forever. Just as every child learns differently, every child has different resilience to every bug that comes along. Even within a household of six of us the same cold will come out differently in each of us. Not to mention the effects that physical stress, emotional stress and diet have on children.
I’m talking about primary school here, you know, the germ-infested, personal-childcare service where those with terribly important jobs send their kids when they’re ill. The place where headlice thrive because it’s still not universally accepted by parents that it’s probably best to get rid of them. The place where teachers come to work with their own set of germs to share (the eldest’s teacher was off last week because he’d lost his voice, he bravely came in for two days until succumbing to it). The place where personal hygiene is reliant on a child being covered in paint. The place, very specifically with my children’s school, where children are told to go to the bathroom to cough or sneeze instead of using a tissue or hanky in the classroom, the same bathroom shared by 32 students, or perhaps we should just call it the germ room.
The NHS has clear guidelines if you’re not sure whether or not your child is ill enough to stay at home, which is worrying because that should be a pretty easy call for most parents. Also worrying because schools are now asking for medical certificates for a child that’s been off for more than 3 days which means that we all need to take our children to the GP for proof that they’ve had a contagious illness that the GP’s are asking us not to take children in for. Norovirus can last for weeks, trust me, the eldest had it, saw the GP and ended up at A&E both of whom told us we shouldn’t have brought someone with such a bad sick bug to a place where illnesses are diagnosed.
I understand that there are possible safe-guarding issues surrounding school attendance. I laugh at the notion that my eldest’s last school was plying; that five days off school in year 5 or 6 equals a drop of one grade in GCSEs, if that were the case how many of us would have just failed outright? Illness in school is not new. I wonder if the government is linking school attendance with the huge amount of time taken off for looking after sick children by working parents, something that wouldn’t have affected previous generations as much. Or if they’re just trying to make our children into mini adults? If it’s so unacceptable for children to be ill maybe schools should consider remote education, we could just link our children up in the morning, have a lunch delivered, get treadmills.
I might be overreacting, but I am just tired of being judged, by teachers, by the government, by employers that think we’ve all got a spare Mary Poppins in the airing cupboard. I’m tired of being told I don’t have the right to make the call on whether my child is too ill for school. I’m tired of feeling like I’m letting school down when really, it’s the governments ridiculous expectations that are letting us all down. I’m tired of the powers that be expecting us to be carbon copies of each other. Most of all, I’m tired of resenting my children for being ill when what I should really be doing is hugging them and telling the rest of the world to go *#$# themselves, because they’re children and they deserve individuality and unconditional love.
(NB; my youngest is missing school, he has carefully explained and re-enacted his school day which has involved 3 separate YouTube moments. I have let him explore YouTube on his own for the first time ever, while I wrote this, he is watching Jurassic Park and Mission Impossible – with sausage dogs, the velocaweiner is the best thing I have ever seen on YouTube. I applaud his teacher.)
Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

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