‘Late Arrivals’

[FIELDNOTES]   There are six categories for students and/or parents to enter the justification for being ‘excused tardy’ – that is, arriving at the school after the allotted start-time of 0900.

Once a week, Jordan Taylor has a pre-school session with a private tutor. This is paid for by-the-hour, and was instigated by Jordan’s mum who had become increasingly concerned about his progression in maths.

So, once a week Jordan gets to school by 0915 and has to choose between the following ‘reasons for late arrival’:

  • Medical, dental, optometric or chiropractic services (with documentation)
  • Funeral service of the student’s immediate family
  • Jury duty
  • Appearance in court, funeral service, holiday or ceremony of student’s religion
  • School activities – field trips, off-site excursion
  • Sports trials

There are no other options. The school is required to provide this lateness data to the state government Department for Education so it can collate attendance data on a school-wide level. The pre-defined categories are set by the government.

So, once a week, Jordan indicates that he is late for school due to ‘Sports Trials’. This amounts to around 40 sports trials each year, but is the least punitive category for Jordan (and his school) to be associated with.

The official state legislation actually does give school principals the capacity to approve “an absence caused by attending remedial class or tutoring” if negotiated with the family prior to the classes being taken. However, Jordan’s mother doesn’t really want to draw attention to her son’s academic performance. She reckons that he is generally a high-achiever. In fact, she certainly wouldn’t describe these sessions as ‘remedial’ tutoring. In this sense, she would much prefer to fudge the issue rather than make things official.

Schools are full of these sorts of closed-option ‘data distortions’, and staff and students are regularly having to find ways to work-around the restrictive nature of these demands and get on with their school day.

But what would be advantages of Jordan being able to record the genuine reason for being late? Perhaps he might feel slightly better for not having to start the school day by being dishonest. Perhaps the school might see a spike of families who are suddenly employing private tutors – this might lead school authorities to investigate how they might compensate for any shortfalls.

Or perhaps the school might work the families to ensure some sort of continuity being home and school curricula. These data would also be useful to aggregate at a district-wide level to see if there was any patterning of private tutoring across different socio-economic groups.

There is a lot that could be done with this data. For the time being, it just appears that Jordan is very unsuccessful in developing his sporting career … while he steadily appears to be improving in maths (for some unknown reason!).