Many children may be dreading going back to school after the summer holidays.
However, new research shows children should not be rewarded for their attendance at school, as this makes them more likely to play truant.
Researchers studied schemes where children are given ‘attendance awards’, which are currently in place in part of California.
Far from improving overall behaviour, scientists found the practice – which is also used in some British schools – actually makes children more likely to skive.
According to the researchers, rewarding pupils for turning up for lessons sends them the message that ‘normal attendance’ is lower than their own.
This makes students feel like they should miss school in order to conform.
Many children may be dreading going back to school after the summer holidays. However, new research shows that children should not be rewarded for having good school attendance as it actually makes them more likely to play truant (stock image)
Researchers led by Harvard University studied data from some 15,000 secondary schools and found the ‘attendance awards’ policy was either entirely ineffectual, or pushed children to be more likely to play truant.
The study, published by the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, found that prizes promised in advance made no difference to actual attendance levels.
The latest findings showed those who won the prize for attendance were less likely to maintain high attendance in future.
According to the BBC, these awards inadvertently have a ‘demotivating’ effect.
The winning students mistakenly believe their attendance is higher than expected, meaning they feel able to miss more days in the future.
They also feel they have performed better than was organisationally expected.
‘A school leaders survey shows that awards for attendance are common, and that the organisational leaders who offer these awards are unaware of their potential demotivating impact,’ researchers led by Dr Carly D Robinson wrote in the paper.
Researchers led by Harvard University looked at data from 15,000 secondary schools and found this ‘attendance awards’ policy was either ineffectual or even made children more likely to play truant (stock image)
‘When people feel that they have exceeded the expectations for a socially desirable behaviour, they may subsequently become less likely to perform the socially desirable behaviour.
‘Thus, the award may have resulted in recipients feeling allowed to miss a future day of school.’
This is because it mistakenly leads pupils to believe they have been exceptional in the past, rather than doing what was required of them.
‘These findings have implications for when and how awards should be used to motivate desirable behaviours – and when they may backfire,’ researchers wrote.
According to researchers, more than 80 per cent of corporations now use ‘Employee of the Month’ awards for top salespeople.
The study says there is conflicting evidence over the effectiveness of these schemes.
Employee absenteeism in the US is estimated to cost organisations $202 billion (£155bn) each year.
‘Given the prevalence of awards, there is surprisingly little empirical evidence on their impacts in the field,’ researchers wrote.
HOW MUCH DO PARENTS PAY IN TRUANCY FINES?
Parents were fined an eye-watering £24 million ($31m) for failing to ensure their children were going to school, figures from 2018 revealed.
Over the course of three years, 155 local authorities in England and Wales issued around 400,000 penalties.
And some councils issued penalties at rates nearly five times that of the average, it was also revealed.
They included the Isle of White, with 64 penalties issued per 1,000 pupils, East Riding of Yorkshire council, with 63 per 1,000 pupils and Suffolk, with 60 per 1,000.
The average rate across England and Wales was 12 penalties issued per 1,000 pupils.
In Wales, Merthyr Tydfil had the highest penalty rate at just 4.6 per 1,000 pupils — which is less than half the average of England and Wales.
There was an average of 12 penalties issued per 1,000 children – according to the BBC – for truancy or for parents taking children on holiday during term in 2016-17.