It’s that time of year again when schools give out prizes for various achievements, such as sporting success. However, there is one award they should not be giving out that is not just wrong but also harmful.

Over the past decade, the number of attendance awards has increased. These prizes can range from certificates and badges to trips to the movies. However, while schools try to promote regular attendance, they can also punish children who have missed a few classes.

This raises the question: should school attendance be rewarded?

The Parent’s Role in Attendance

Parents play a vital role in inspiring students to believe in the importance of hard work and perseverance. However, attendance awards can also be very harmful. They reward children for doing something they can’t control, such as missing school during a term-time holiday.

Since the government has a responsibility to look after the well-being of children, it has always considered the parents as the ones who are responsible for their child’s absenteeism. In other words – it is on the parents to decide whether or not a child attends class regularly. Therefore, when a child receives an attendance award, it is the parent’s decision to be rewarded.

Punishing Hurting Children

Stories of children unable to go on end-of-year trips due to chemotherapy treatment have been reported. In one instance, the class was invited to a bouncy castle to celebrate the achievement of the attendance target.

To put this in a new light: children who are dealing with chronic illness, death in the family, or other conditions are actively punished for their inability to attend classes regularly. Frequently, these students are already dealing with too much. There is no need to pile on.

Children need to go to school, but it is not more important than their mental and health well-being. Attendance awards send the message that health is best, sickness should be minimalized, and fragility should be avoided.

Demotivating Results

Studies have shown that attendance awards have a negative effect on students. It puts pressure on perfection, punishes students will illness (and other concerns), and can even send the wrong message. One study found that children who had previously received the award felt that they didn’t need to attend consistently – as their peers were not singled out.

The same study found that the results are worse for students who are struggling academically. These students missed more than one-third of their days compared to the control group. The results are clear: we must find other ways to celebrate our students.