Best Practice

What am I walking into? Addressing the absence of vulnerable learners

Do you see a problem child in your classroom – or do you see a child with a problem? Do your vulnerable learners wonder what they will be walking into each day in your school? Steven Russell considers how we must change the way we think about school absence...
Image: Adobe Stock

“Why are you late? What time do you call this? Ever heard of an alarm clock?”


Imagine your manager responding to you like this in front of your colleagues. How would you feel? Shocked? Bewildered? Distraught that your manager would put you in such a humiliating situation?

No “good morning”. No “great to see you”. Just a blunt response with no compassion or concern about why you are late.

Of course, when it comes to our students, we too often fail to extend this basic courtesy.

Imagine you are a single parent, barely holding everything together. You have complex personal issues which you keep private out of fear. Your child is equally affected by these issues and mornings are often difficult. They have good reasons for being late or absent, reasons that go beyond our superficial assumptions.

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