A mum has refused to let her young son collect an award for having 100 per cent school attendance saying he shouldn’t be rewarded – for not being SICK.
Rachel Wright, 40, told teachers that 10-year-old JJ’s perfect record during the current academic year is down to ‘luck’, and shouldn’t be treated as an achievement.
She claims handing out awards for perfect attendance “demonises the weak” and gives the wrong impression for later life.
As a result, JJ is not allowed to join friends who also achieved a 100 per cent attendance record on a celebratory evening at a soft play centre
Rachel, who has three sons, said: “In this family we will think of as many reasons possible to praise our children.
“We will celebrate and reward them, but being lucky enough not to get sick is not one of them.
“He’s lucky to have not developed a fever, had an accident or live with a chronic illness.
“In this family you are not shamed for ill health, vulnerability or weakness.
“Sickness is not something to be frowned upon or a result of lack of achievement, it is predominantly a mix of luck and genetics, neither of which my kids can control.
“In this house you are not encouraged to spread germs when you are not well. In this house we look after ourselves and the weakest amongst us.”
JJ was handed the award by teachers for turning up to school on every day of the last academic year.
But Rachel said JJ had no control over his attendance – he was simply taken to school every day whether he liked it or not.
Rachel, whose eldest son, Sam, 11, was born with severe brain damage, said that her family is not one that praises someone for something they didn’t do.
And she challenged the idea of having an award for non-sickness in a work place.
Rachel, who is married to 39-year-old GP Tim, said: “Can you imagine a work place that at the end of each week marked out all the people who hadn’t been sick?
“Where all the departments with the least number of people off were rewarded – in front of everyone else? It happens in schools all the time.
“Can you imagine what kind of atmosphere that would create with people who had days off because of bereavement, mental health problem or chronic conditions?
“What on earth are we teaching our kids about value and worth? What are we teaching them about looking out for each other and looking after the sick or disabled in our community?”
Rachel, from Southend-on-Sea, Essex, has just self-published her first book The Skies I’m Under in which she shares the reality of becoming the parent of a child with complex disabilities.
She penned her comments about JJ in a blog post, which has since received more than 20,000 likes.
She said: “As much as I understand the importance of attendance, there must be a better way of helping those families and children who don’t go to school for non-genuine reasons.
“The messages we are sending to our kids when we reward attendance is wrong for so many reasons.”
However, the post has received mixed reactions.
One mother, whose daughter suffers with a chronic illness, thanked Rachel for her words.
She commented: “My daughter has a chronic illness as well as many other health issues and has so many hospital appointments she’ll never get one of the above awards.
“Now they give the children with full attendance badges to wear too, it allows them extra privileges.
“She suffers enough with her health and from bullies, without the school pointing a finger of shame at her. I couldn’t have said it better. Thank you for speaking out.”
However, another disagreed with Rachel’s post, asking her whether she would disregard other things her son may be rewarded for in the future.
They said: “You appear to make the assumption that schools, while parading the 100%ers (which, over the course of the year, will be a small percentage of children) are shaming and ridiculing the rest.
“I have never known this to be the case.
“100% attendance for the year is a remarkable achievement and IMHO it is absolutely right to recognise it, like so many other things a child might achieve, pretty much all of which involve an element of luck.”
But despite her comments, Rachel admitted she doesn’t believe in 100 per cent attendance any way – as she feels it’s important that her kids get the occasional rest.
She also plans to take JJ out of school one week early to take him on holiday which they are only able to do so when Sam is in school, due to him needing care 24 hours a day otherwise.
Rachel said: “I don’t think our decision can be related to not getting an Olympic medal or diminishing a sense of pride.
“It’s about children being rewarded for what they are in control of, recognising the duty of parents and in the wider scheme of things acknowledging that as a society we pity people with disabilities and long term conditions rather than value them.
“I have made a very personal decision public. I understand people criticising our decision to stop JJ going, I am not attempting to change everyone else’s mind about this but I wanted to highlight the deeper implications for such an award on families like mine.
“I like the school he goes to. I don’t think it’s a bad school, I think it’s a wider issue relevant to many schools.”