Controversy Surrounds Ellesmere Park High School’s Daily Prize Draws for Attendance

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Ellesmere Park High School in Eccles, Salford, is facing criticism for its recent initiative to improve attendance, offering daily prize draws featuring vouchers as incentives. The school, part of the Consilium Academies multi-academy trust, is accused of resorting to bribery to ensure students regularly attend class.

The contentious scheme, operational throughout the week, involves random draws for students who are present and punctual. Prizes range from £50 in vouchers from Monday to Thursday, with an increased value of £80 on Fridays. Parents were informed about the initiative through a message outlining that draws would be random and conducted towards the end of the school day.

While the school defends the initiative as part of a broader effort to promote good attendance, some parents argue that it sends the wrong message about the school’s priorities. Critics express concern that the focus on a daily lottery trivializes education and overlooks consistently well-behaved students.

A father of a student at the school voiced his concerns, stating, “It conveys that the most crucial aspect of school is a daily lottery rather than an actual education. Surely, there must be a simpler way to address persistent non-attendance?” He empathized with dedicated students who may feel overshadowed by those attending solely for the chance to win a prize.

Another parent shared her dissatisfaction, emphasizing that her daughter, who consistently attends school and arrives on time, has never received any acknowledgment for consistently doing what is expected. She expressed a broader concern about the lack of incentives for well-behaved students, stating, “It feels as if the rewards are directed in the wrong direction, offering almost no incentive for good behavior.”

Ellesmere Park High School, however, defends its approach, asserting that the prize draws are just one facet of a comprehensive strategy implemented over the past four years to encourage and celebrate good attendance. The school emphasizes that the mentioned prizes are not meant for a single student but will be distributed among several pupils.

A spokesperson for the school stated, “Attendance at our school is significantly above the national average. Given all the challenges that communities have faced since the pandemic, this is something that we are rightly proud of.” The school contends that its approach aims to celebrate and reward students consistently attending while providing appropriate support and challenges to those with higher-than-normal absence rates.

The spokesperson also referenced comments from Ofsted, the UK’s education regulator, noting the positive outcomes of a recent inspection. The report, published in September following a July inspection, highlighted the pupils’ enjoyment of attending the school, the vibrant and inclusive community, and the high expectations for learning and behavior. Ofsted specifically commended the school for successfully working with disadvantaged pupils to improve their attendance.

Despite the school’s defence, concerns from parents persist. The debate raises broader questions about the most effective ways to incentivize student attendance and whether short-term rewards might overshadow the long-term goal of fostering a genuine interest in education. As the controversy unfolds, it remains to be seen whether Ellesmere Park High School will adjust its approach or maintain its current stance in response to parental criticism.

Sam Allcock
Sam Allcock
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