Wealden Liberal Democrats have condemned the county council’s response to a ‘condescending’ leaflet it produced that told parents there was no excuse for not sending their their children to school – even if they’re ill.
The petition, launched by Seaford parent Ella Lewis, attacked the ‘Get a Grip’ leaflet sent out by the county council to all parents and students who have missed three days of school since early September. The leaflet included the sentence: ‘Good reasons for missing school – there are none.’
Ella Lewis was incensed to receive the letter after her six-year-old daughter missed three days to recover from a stomach bug and chest infection. Her petition was picked up by Lib Dem county councillor Carolyn Lambert, who tabled a motion to yesterday’s full meeting of the county council, asking for the leaflet to be withdrawn and parents to be treated with more respect.
The petition described the leaflet’s message as ‘aggressive, condescending and insulting’ and attracted nearly 7000 signatures. But despite presenting it eloquently to yesterday’s meeting, the petition was given short shrift by Conservative and Labour councillors alike.
Hellingly and East Hoathly Conservative Nick Bennett said the leaflet was not aimed at ‘responsible parents, vulnerable children or those with a long-term illness’ but at ‘what is happening in some households where the children are not expected to go to school’.
And Hastings Labour councillor Godfrey Daniel said ‘If the leaflet upsets a few people, that’s OK. I think people are getting offended too easily.’
Wealden parliamentary spokesperson Chris Bowers said: ‘Efforts to improve attendance rates at school are in principle good, but it has to be done with common sense and compassion. The county’s leaflet pays no regard to parents who need to take a day off work when their child can’t go to school, and the havoc this plays with family routines. The idea being peddled by this leaflet is that most kids who miss school are somehow taking a soft option – such a suggestion is an outrage.
‘There is also a severe case of double-standards going on, because if a school fears any form of disruption – like from bad weather or public transport blockages – its principal will have no qualms about closing the school for a day or two, yet children who miss three days a term for illness are being demonised. And all this with the county giving our children less than a fortnight’s Christmas holiday when all our kids need a decent break after a long term.
‘The county council ought to cherish our youngsters instead of driving them into the ground and making them feel like skivers before they’ve even attempted to seek employment.’