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What happens when your child is late for school

Found in: Leadership Blog

There can be a tendency to downplay the effect of being late for school which may be the reason that for quite a number of families this can become pattern behaviour. I’d like to consider this with you.

Firstly the downplay: “Well they’re not really learning first thing in the morning”, “it’s not as though they are missing anything important” ”things are crazy in the morning, it’s just so hard to get them moving” “I just can’t get them out of bed on these cold mornings”.

I don’t want to be alarmist, but the consequences of being late for school can be profound.

If your child is in Primary School, the day begins with mat time or pastoral care time for older students. This is a time where students develop relationships, share concerns, pray together, share information and have opportunity to get to know their teachers and fellow students outside of the context of school work. It is important. This is also the time where students settle and centre themselves calmly for the beginning of the day. The effect on their well-being, having this time cannot be underestimated.

The problem with running late and disrupting this time, is that your child is not set up for success from the very start of the day. Their anxiety levels can be elevated from the very beginning. Let me give you an Olympic image. All the 1500 metre runners are at the line, poised and ready to run. The gun goes off and they begin to race. Except for Johnny, who comes hobbling into the arena, bedraggled and with one shoe on as the bystanders watch in bewilderment - he tries to catch up. You want your child to feel like "part of the team" at the beginning of a day, not the "intruder" who is interrupting.

If your child is in Secondary School, the day begins with a 10 minute Pastoral Care class. This is not a 10 minute buffer zone for students to get to school. It is a pastoral care opportunity. Teachers and students relate in an “out of the curriculum” context. This is again a wonderful opportunity to develop both peer, teacher and student relationships. Often activities like 'buddies' help, devotions, critical information for the day, organisation and most importantly rollcall is set up for the day.

The pastoral care teacher in the Secondary context is supposed to have opportunity to build relationship with their students in a manner that gives them opportunity for pastoral oversight of students across the curriculum. Failure to build a good relationship undermines this opportunity for support. The second important element of getting the day off to a good start is that being personally organised is one of the most significant elements for success in secondary school years. If students begin the day on the back foot, rushing and feeling late, not only does this heighten their sense of anxiety; it predisposes them to forgetting material and equipment that they need for their day of learning.

Here are a few hints:

  1.  Get set up for school before you go to sleep the previous night. I know this might sound outrageous, but it is worth contending with the inevitable resistance you will face from your children. Don’t ask them if they are ready for school tomorrow, the answer is invariably a gruff “yes”. Ask them to show you that they are ready; ideally take a look inside their bags (high distinction if you compare this with their timetable), check their set out clothes, sport uniform etc.
  2. Help them get a good night’s sleep. I mentioned it last week, no devices should go to bed with them. Help them to wind-down prior to their bed time. Physiologically it works best for growing children to have a regular sleep time. Honestly, some students come to school looking like they have slept in a cement mixer.

Here are a couple of quotes I found on google:

“Either you run the day or the day runs you”, 

“One small positive thought in the morning, can change your whole day”.

Mr Rod McNeill