Teachers at All Saints Catholic Primary School in Bootle, Merseyside, were furious after attendance figures plunged on Monday – as Storm Franklin and it’s 70mph lingered across the country. The school’s headteacher sent parents a letter to remind them “the wind” is not a reasonable excuse for children not to attend classes.
One passage read: “I’m always in awe when I see photographs of children and parents around the world who value education so dearly that they walk barefoot for miles or clamber over rubble, past bombed out ruins, in order to get to school. I wonder what they might make of our attendance rates in school today.”
But one single mother, who kept her son off due to the monster gales, told Liverpool Echo she felt the letter was “disgusted” and it made her feel shamed.
“For safety reasons I didn’t want him walking on his own, there were many people who I’m aware have kept their kids off too,” the mum said.
“When I saw the email from the school I was crying to my sister about it because they were making me feel like a bad parent for putting my kid first.
“I was shocked at the last bit of the email, there’s no comparing kids here and people in really poor countries. It was awful.”
The letter also stated: “Unfortunately, we have many children absent today, not because of Covid or other illnesses but apparently because of the wind.
“I have to say I find this staggering, not least because most live in very close proximity to school.
“Given the amount of pre-school and school experiences that our children have already missed in the last two years, missing a whole day’s learning today is unacceptable.
“For staff, many of whom travelled considerable distances here this morning, eager to introduce new learning topics to their class, it is incredibly frustrating.”
The school, which caters for around 380 children, said it did not intend to upset parents.
Angela Holleran, headteacher at the school rated as Good by Ofsted, said: “We are aware that we did experience windy conditions on Monday morning and that the Met Office had issued a yellow weather warning for our area, indicating possible low-level impact.
“In line with schools across Sefton, we were open as normal to all pupils. All risk assessments on the site had been completed well in advance of the children arriving. All of our staff were in school ready for the start of the new half term, fully expecting pupils to arrive, given that the overwhelming majority live in very close proximity to the school.
“For pupils who did attend, classes went ahead as normal and following a further risk assessment, children were able to play and learn outdoors.
“We regret any upset caused to the parent who felt the need to contact the Liverpool Echo. This was not our intention. Pre and post -Covid, our focus was and remains, on the entitlement of every child to a full-time education.
“Governors and staff at All Saints are mindful of the well-established link between school attendance and a happy and successful life. The disruption to children’s learning and development, as a result of the pandemic, is significant and far- reaching in all year groups.
“In response, from September 2020, we extended the school day at both ends to provide additional teaching time to all children. Comprehensive tutoring and pastoral programmes have also been implemented across the school to support children.
“We want all children to be in school every day to benefit from as much of this support as possible and we hope parents will work with us to ensure this is the case.”