A couple are prepared to go to court rather than pay a £60 school fine imposed because they took their son out of school – for a family wedding.
Ross and Samantha Woodland face an £1,000 fine on Friday (Feb 3) after being charged over ten-year-old son, Ewan.
They took him out of school to a family wedding without authority.
The couple has refused to pay the statutory fine of £60 for each of the absences because it was a wedding – not a ‘cheap holiday’.
On one occasion they whisked the schoolboy 700 miles away from Reynolds Primary Academy, Cleethorpes, North East Lincs., to a pagan wedding at the Ring of Brodgar on the Orkney Islands.
But defiant supporters of the couple have set up an online campaign – and it’s attracted hundreds of signatures already.
Ross, who received a Queen’s commendation for his 15-year stint in the RAF, said: “A wedding is part of life that schools cannot teach.
“We put in the relevant paperwork for approval for leave of absence. But they did not see it as an exceptional circumstance.
“They said it was part of their policy. They say absence will only be authorised if it is rare, significant, unavoidable and short.
“I expect weddings to come under that context as there is no way we can decide when our relatives hold their weddings.
“And one of the weddings was 700 miles away, so it is going to take a few days. It is also a significant event in our eyes.
“We feel it (prosecution) is right for persistent offenders who don’t take their kids to school.
“But our son has a 94 per cent attendance. He has certificates for being star of the week, success in his maths challenge and reading challenge.
“How is it a couple of people can dictate how you run your life when you do take your lad to school?
“Having served in the military I have missed my son’s first words, his first steps, birthdays and anniversaries.”
Ross, of Suggitts Lane, Cleethorpes, North East Lincs., added: “The only contact there has been is when I have phoned them.
“We got the penalty notice and then we received the letter of intention to prosecute.
“So we waited and have now finally had the summons to appear in court.
“But in all that time there has been no investigation and no request to interview us. If it is bad enough to go for a prosecution you would expect to be called in.
“But we do not believe we have done anything wrong. A wedding is an important event. It is not like we are taking him away on a cheap holiday. This was a one off.”
Ross is also adamant that the case is a done deal following a dad’s High Court win last May.
Jon Platts, who refused to pay a £120 fine for taking his daughter on a seven-day holiday to Disneyland, took the Isle of Wight education authority to court.
Judges ruled then that it was not an offence to take children out of school outside of holidays and local authorities have to look at a child’s overall attendance record.
A spokeswoman for Tollbar said: “Tollbar Multi Academy Trust, of which Reynolds Academy is a member, clearly defines its policy on student absences in line with Department of Education recommendations.
“Parents or carers do not have the right to withdraw a student from the Academy to go on holiday or for any other reason during term-time.
“We, therefore, ask for parents’ support by ensuring that requests for leave of absence in term-time are made only in truly exceptional circumstances.
“As is clearly stated in our academy policy and listed on our websites, The Education Welfare Service must be informed of unauthorised absences and will take appropriate action, which could include a Penalty Notice or prosecution.
“Tollbar Multi Academy Trust believes that there is a strong link between student absence and the results that they achieve.
“Every lesson matters and children who have time off often find it difficult to catch up.”