At the weekend, I wrote this post, which seemed to strike a chord, being shared 5,000 times (to date) on Facebook alone, and I’ve struggled to write anything since, unsure quite how to follow it.
The travel and review posts I had in the pipeline didn’t feel right somehow.
Inspiration finally hit this evening upon emptying my daughter’s school bag to find a letter regarding her absence on Tuesday.
The school is aware, it reads, of the campaign “Let Kids Be Kids” urging parents to keep Year 2 children out of school for one day.
The absence, however, will be marked on my daughter’s record as unauthorised.
I have had issue with unauthorised absences before.
In February, we took the children to see their grandmother on the Greek island of Paros where she now lives.
They had not seen her for several months – they miss her terribly since she moved.
We tried our best to coincide the trip with half term.
Being winter, we had a little trouble trying to book a ferry to a highly seasonal island and ended up having to take the children out of school a day before they were due to officially break up.
We decided not to just call in sick but to be upfront and honest about the impending absence and the reasons behind it, confident that we would be understood.
However, we were simply told it would not be authorised because “a holiday is a holiday”.
A holiday is never just a holiday.
Any family getaway is educational and beneficial in its own right.
Additionally, a trip to see a much-loved and missed family member for the first time in months is not merely a holiday.
More an essential part of a child’s life.
The emotional ramifications on our children of cancelling our “holiday” would have been huge; therefore it was not an option.
We reluctantly took the unauthorised absence on the chin.
Incidentally, the day of school that the children missed was spent exploring the Acropolis hand in hand with their grandmother.
I fail to see how a day in school could ever have been more worthwhile, educationally or otherwise.
It is a point of principal.
It is also nonsensical.
My daughter and I protested on behalf of teachers and students everywhere.
Our only wish to see a brighter future for our schools.
A future in which children may simply be children.
And teachers may be allowed the opportunity to autonomously teach, unhindered by such ferocious testing.
The ultimate goal being a damn good education rather than a bunch of worthless grades and a stress-related illness.
My daughter and I want to see an end to stress in the classroom, a decline in childhood mental health issues, a reduction in the number of children who feel they are not good enough.
Yet this is not enough to warrant an absence of exceptional circumstance.
You can do a ballet exam or take part in a modelling shoot.
Something that benefits nobody but yourself.
This is fine!
No blemish on your record; a free pass.
But try to make a difference for all…
We can’t allow that.
I am angry.
I am sad.
For a moment I almost regretted our actions.
Which I expect was the point of sending out the letter.
Then I thought about it a little more.
And I cannot regret protesting against something I feel is inherently wrong.
Regardless of any ramifications, I stand by my beliefs.
I also refuse to allow my daughter to feel ashamed for what we did. Taking a stand is something we should all do more often, it is an education in itself.
If she somehow finds out about her unauthorised absence, or wonders why she isn’t being rewarded for her attendance this term, I will tell her it is because we spotted a fundamental flaw in a system we put our faith in, and we took steps to improve it.
Baby steps, granted.
But steps nonetheless.
A move in the right direction.
And for that, I hope she will be proud.