A family has been fined for taking their son out of school to attend his grandmother’s funeral in South Africa.
Carol Follows said she told St Matthew’s Church of England Academy in Stoke-on-Trent that she needed to take nine-year-old Logan out of school for 12 days after her mother died unexpectedly.
The school reportedly said the absence became “unauthorised” after five days. Ms Follows told the Stoke Sentinel: “Logan has never exceeded absence levels and is above average on his school reports, so I don’t understand why we are being penalised for my mum dying. It’s just not acceptable.”
The trip incorporated sorting out a funeral and dealing with Follows’ mother’s estate. The fine is currently said to be £120, but it may drop to £60 if paid by 6 September. If not paid, it could lead to a £1,000 penalty charge.
The decision to authorise term-time absences from school lies with individual head teachers, rather than county councils, and may take various circumstances into account including the reason for the absence and the pupil’s attendance record.
Gov.uk states: ”You have to get permission from the head teacher if you want to take your child out of school during term time. It’s up to the head teacher how many days your child can be away from school if leave is granted.”
Earlier this year, families in Lancashire were warned of a possible £1,000 fine as part of a pilot scheme to reduce term-time absences. Flights and hotels cost a lot more during school holidays, leading parents to sometimes opt to pay the £60 fine in exchange for saving on holiday fares, which can sometimes backfire as both parents can be fined separately.
Responding to Follows’ family’s case, a council spokesman told the Stoke Sentinel: “Schools set their own attendance policies in line with our code of conduct. The decision to authorise absence is at the discretion of the head teacher based on individual circumstances, including the attendance rate of the pupil involved.”
HuffPost UK has contacted the school for comment and will update this piece if a spokesperson responds.