Report on Absences Policy


by Cesar Almeida, United World College Maastricht
21st June, 2019


[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n light of the Student Council proposal for the awaited solution of the absences policy, I believe is important to pen down the rather transparent process which the transitioning StuCo went through, along with the student community and staff members.
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The student council began conversations with the school leadership team after being approached by students with concerns about discrepancies with the information available in the 2018/2019 handbook and how their unexcused absences were being dealt with. The issue had already begun to create problems in the community, however, by mid-November when large numbers of students were amassing numbers of unexcused absences requiring a meeting with the Head of Year- something that soon became a logistical nightmare and impossible time management problem.
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The development of an improved policy, according to members of the current Council started with a considerable number of outspoken unhappy students that believed this problem arose from a lack of congruence between what’s said in the Handbook and what’s done by the school, along with a defective communication between UWCM with parents and National Committees including “harsh-wording” which could lead to a “deteriorated sense of community”, descriptors which appeared in the received feedback. It is important to emphasize that there were around 70 cases of students with a substantial amount of absences and a considerable fraction of that number further contributed to explaining the details of their situation to the Student Council.
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The first step was taken by a subteam of the StuCo, which consisted of sending out a google form to collect specific, anonymous, personal incidents that could serve as a background to sustain a real and grounded dialogue with the conversation points in the staff; the Director of Secondary School, our Head of Year, the Deputy Director of Student Life, the School Nurse and the Deputy of Student Support. According to a member of this Student Council; “The meeting began a bit tense, but helped us to understand the leadership’s viewpoint (concerning legality and public education policies) and to establish a bridge of communication between the student body and the staff”.
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This meeting addressed the unavailability of a platform to view our current absences, the reasons for missing class, including some unhealthy choices and habits that students maintain and can impact their academic performance. The result of the first conversation was the students being given the opportunity to devise a process of dealing with unexcused absences, for the students, by the students.
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The student input was collected with a new Google form with the purpose of gathering ideas and concerns from the students to take into account while modifying the handbook. Proceeding with another meeting with the Head of Year, the Deputy Director of Student Life and now the Head of College.
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This meeting resulted in the first draft of the new absences policy, attached at the top of the article.
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Along with other important highlights such as the active update and awareness of the personal tutor of the absent student and a continuous collaboration in order to support the student. In addition with the clarification that tutor meetings are mandatory and will count as an unexcused absence, unless tutors are sent a clear communication beforehand. And how unexcused absences work and who can excuse as well as the valid reasons to be excused. As an important yet unknown fact, according to the Student Council, in case of physical or mental inability to attend class, students must go to the school nurse, or in case of distress, the school psychologist, to be excused.
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As previously stated, this table, along with more text which I strongly recommend you to read are in the Google Docs shared by the Student Council to the DP community, it is the first draft that needs to be revised and further approved to be part of future Student Handbook. A document which is frequently subject of change and improvement, based on our feedback as students and members of UWC Maastricht and the movement as a whole. However, in order to gather strong feedback, attendance should happen, not only to the academic-related issues but to issues that concern the community. It is commonly known that this school is not perfect, and it is undeniable that it is in constant change. Whether this is positive or negative will depend on each other’s perspectives. But above all, this change happens because of us. It is up to us to show up to residential meetings, Say What Lectures, classes, conferences and provide useful and reliable feedback, up to us to create the sense of a strong UWC community we all want.

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