Parents of eight-year-old girl fined for taking her on charity-funded holiday
PUBLISHED: 11:22 27 July 2015 | UPDATED: 11:22 27 July 2015
The parents of an eight-year-old girl with autism spectrum disorders have been fined for taking her on a charity-funded holiday.
Stuart Parker, 58, and his partner Amanda Herdsman, from Bungay, was awarded a £500 grant from the Family Fund charity to take step-daughter Ruby Rose, and their two other children on a five-day respite break to Butlins in Skegness.
After informing the children’s three schools about the break, Bungay High School and Beccles Free School authorised the holiday for sons Jordan, 15, and Harvey, 13.
However, the family returned last week to find a letter from Bungay Primary School to say it had not authorised the trip and the parents were issued with a fine of £120.
Mr Parker said: “We wrote a letter to the school and didn’t hear anything back so presumed it was fine, particularly since the school authorised the trip when we were awarded the grant last year.
“I spoke to the staff and there seemed to be some confusion about who had seen our original letter and who made the decision not to authorise it.”
The school said in a statement: “When a family’s request for a holiday is based upon affordability the school does not deem this to be an exceptional circumstance and a Fixed Penalty Notice is appropriate.”
A spokesperson for Suffolk County Council said: “Ensuring children attend school during term time is imperative in raising attainment.
“A child with a 90% school attendance record misses the equivalent to half a year of secondary school over 5 years. Young people really need to attend school and be in a learning environment every day.”
“Schools and authorities take the issue of children failing to attend school regularly very seriously and the number of Fixed Penalty Notices issued by schools demonstrates that there is greater challenge by schools to parents and carers who fail to send their children to school.
“There are, of course, circumstances where children cannot attend school, due to sickness, but in term time it is the responsibility of parents and carers to ensure their children go to school.
“However, every headteacher has to make a decision based on the merits of each case to authorise a Fixed Penalty Notice referral in line with the policy for attendance that has been set by the school’s governors.
“School headteachers are taking a rigorous approach and making use of Fixed Penalty Notices where other interventions have not worked to get children into school. The council is working in partnership with schools to support them in both increasing school attendance and in raising the attainment for all children in Suffolk.”
The Beccles and Bungay Journal reported last week how the parents of Bungay High School pupil Ben Rourke were fined after the 15-year-old arranged his own trip to Barcelona to coincide with the school’s three-day activity week.
Ben, who hopes to become an airline pilot, saw the trip as a chance to brush up on his language and geography skills.
The Family Fund charity provides grants to low-income families raising disabled and seriously ill children and young people, including grants for sensory toys, computers and family breaks together.