It’s no secret that schools giving rewards for full attendance has drawn up some controversy in the past with parents claiming that for some kids, absence is unavoidable.
A study has shown that giving children prizes and commendations for getting high or 100% attendance during an academic term makes “no significant difference” as to whether children will attend school or not.
The study, by the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in the US, looked at these rewards schemes in 14 schools in California, covering 15,000 pupils. They found that even if pupils knew about these prizes in advance, it made no difference to their attendance.
Interestingly, they also found if the rewards were given retrospectively, it had a negative impact on future attendance. The authors concluded this may be because pupils felt they had outperformed what was expected of them and so took a more relaxed approach in the future.
The researchers concluded that the awards seemed to send unintended messages which could have a “demotivating” effect on the students in the long run. They argued that due to the strong peer pressure for teenagers to conform, achieving a high attendance reward could be deemed “outside the norm” others in their peer group didn’t receive it and therefore avoided.
“The award may have resulted in recipients feeling allowed to miss a future day of school,” said the study. “These findings have implications for when and how awards should be used to motivate desirable behaviours - and when they may backfire.”
These findings have implications for when and how awards should be used to motivate desirable behaviours - and when they may backfire." Study authors
Previously, British parents have criticised the reward scheme prevalent in many UK schools. One mum gave a lengthy explanation on Facebook as to why her son wouldn’t be accepting his 100% attendance reward of going to soft play.
“We don’t reward luck,” she wrote at the time. “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. Also, 100% attendance awards can demonise the weakest. In this family you are not shamed for ill health, vulnerability or weakness.”
Similarly, back in January 2018, a petition was started by parents arguing that kids with medical conditions who have unavoidable appointments should not miss out on attendance awards. The petition reached nearly 200,000 signatures but as of yet, no change has been made.
At the time, Laura Kileen, 30, from Stockton-on-Tees, explained her seven-year-old daughter who has juvenile arthritis and hypermobility syndrome missed out on attendance rewards due to having to attend essential hospital appointments that can’t be made outside of school hours.
“Her hypermobility causes problems day-to-day,” Kileen told HuffPost UK. “She has to have hospital check-ups every three months, blood tests every three months and eye appointments a couple of times a year, as well as physio. If she’s off sick it could be the same rules as everybody else, but she misses out on rewards due to no fault of her own.”
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