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Unauthorised absence for taking 4 year old out from school because my mum has been diagnosed with breast cancer

(32 Posts)
ihila Fri 28-Nov-14 21:07:55

Recently, my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer and will undergo the radio hormonal treatment in another country. We wrote to the headteacher explaining the circumstances because we want to take 4 year old out of the school 5 days before the term finishes. We received the head teacher' response that she does not authorise the request as she does not think this is exceptional circumstance. In her own words: you have enough holidays (2 weeks) during the Christmas to see your mum and she is not approving it, and that's her decision. She does not have right to make decision like this as my daughter is not 5 years old yet. It looks like it is the school policy to unauthorise any request and the headteacher is not able to exercise the discretion. I am aware that I am not going to be fined as my child is not of compulsory age yet, but this is very hard time for us as a family and I do not understand why this is not regarded as a special circumstance.

imip Fri 28-Nov-14 21:11:01

At our school, the head seems to tow the company line and say that officially it's not on. Is your head doing this? She knows ultimately that you're not going to be fined, but they need to be seen as acting tough. Given the circumstances though, you think they'd be nicer about it!

SevenZarkSeven Fri 28-Nov-14 21:12:05

I am sorry about your mum.

I don't know what to suggest. These things are so hard aren't they as it's very deeply ingrained to follow the rules, you have asked if you can do this and been told no.

Maybe some other people who have been in similar positions will be able to help. Is there an appeal process? Although something like that isn't what you need at a time like this.

SevenZarkSeven Fri 28-Nov-14 21:12:46

Is it booked, are the flights and things booked?

BIWI Fri 28-Nov-14 21:13:47

First, I'm really sorry to hear about your mum. My mum died from advanced breast cancer, so you have my every sympathy - especially if she's in another country.

However. She's being treated for it - she hasn't died. So why can't you wait for 5 days before you go and see her? It really won't make any difference!

Strictly1 Fri 28-Nov-14 21:15:17

Sadly I have many parents say they need to go away because of illness and many are stretching the truth or fibbing. Also, with the two weeks off it is reasonable to think that there is time available.
I do sympathise fully as someone who has lost a much loved mum to the awful disease. As a head it is difficult to remain consistently fair so seems fairer to be black and white.
I hope your mum is okay x

NoelleHawthorne Fri 28-Nov-14 21:16:02

So sorry about your Mum.

Not sure about the age thing if the kid IS enrolled in school
I know of a case that went to court locally where there was a dying relative that the defendant planned three months ahead to go and visit in term time.

Found guilty of school non attendance

DealForTheKids Fri 28-Nov-14 21:18:50

I read it as the OP wanting to be with her mum FOR the radiotherapy. As someone who was with a (single, childless) relative during treatment, I'd say it was imperative to have someone there during the treatment - you shouldn't be alone during it. I may have read that wrong though.

NoelleHawthorne Fri 28-Nov-14 21:19:35

i think being treated for cancer isnt exceptional, sadly.
I would agree with the Head.

EhricLovesTheBhrothers Fri 28-Nov-14 21:20:49

Just take her out of school - what do you think is going to happen? She's not 5 so she can't fine you, and next time don't bother asking just call her in sick.

BIWI Fri 28-Nov-14 21:21:12

I'm sorry - it may be that the daughter/OP wants to be with her mum, but that doesn't necessitate taking her child out of school. Radiotherapy is perfectly manageable without someone accompanying you.

NoelleHawthorne Fri 28-Nov-14 21:22:48

i am not sure you can pull the ' she is not 5' thing if she is already at the school.

does anyone know with real experience?

SevenZarkSeven Fri 28-Nov-14 21:27:28

OP it seems most here are in accord which I am surprised about.

Have you already booked your flights? Does your mum have anyone else to look after her? Is there anyone who can look after your DC if you go?

I must admit I would have thought that this was something the school would want to show compassion over as well but it looks like I'm out of step on this one.

SoonToBeSix Fri 28-Nov-14 21:30:19

But what difference does it make , like you say you won't be fined as your dd is below compulsory school age. Stop worrying about things that don't matter and concentrate on being there for your mum.

NoelleHawthorne Fri 28-Nov-14 21:32:03

thats what I am saying, once you take up a school place, can you still say she isnt 5?

weebarra Fri 28-Nov-14 21:33:21

Tbh, when I had radiotherapy last year for breast cancer, no one came with me - hours journey there and back.
On the other hand, our HT did authorise me taking the DCs out of school early before the summer holiday as I'd had such a crap year! We are in Scotland though, so not the same.

BIWI Fri 28-Nov-14 21:33:25

My mum went through chemo and radiotherapy on her own. She didn't expect anyone to be with her!

piggychops Fri 28-Nov-14 21:35:07

Just go and don't worry about it. Yes it's unauthorised but your mum is the most important thing. It'll just be on record that's all.

meditrina Fri 28-Nov-14 21:35:22

If your DC has not reached statutory school age (ie in reception and not yet in the term after turning 5) then you cannot be fined. But having chosen to enrol in school, then the DC must attend regularly and other absence management strategies may be used.

It is solely up to HT whether they authorise or not. And much depends on the character of your HT.

SevenZarkSeven Fri 28-Nov-14 21:36:45

My MIL had my FIL go with her. I don't think it's that unusual to have someone with you is it? He would give her a lift to the hosp and back and keep her company while she waited for the appt and stuff. I think he tried to go with her for her general appts as well.

It depends on how fit or frail someone is maybe, how near they are to the hospital and stuff. I'd have thought.

SevenZarkSeven Fri 28-Nov-14 21:37:56

meditrina what sort of consequences do you think OP might see?

Although she can't be fined, could she be prosecuted?

redspottydress Fri 28-Nov-14 21:45:02

Absolutely go. You dd needn't have even started school yet. 5 days off will do no harm. You know what's best for your family.

ihila Fri 28-Nov-14 22:26:30

The original plan was for my parents to come here for Christmas. In fact I was scheduled to marry whilst they were here. However, the necessity of my mother being treated has meant that they can't travel. I have had to postpone my marriage and travel to them. I have to take my daughter out of school as at such short notice flights to East Slovakia are very hard to come by at this time of year. This may be the last time that my daughter has to see her grand mother before she undergoes debilitating treatment.

As regards the age issue, the school is only called upon to authorise the absence of "children of school age". A child is of school age at the beginning of the term that follows its fifth birthday. You are not compelled to send your child to school prior to that date and even if you choose to do so your child is still not a child of school age.

However, the irksome things are that the school is unaware of the law; that my reply from the school is just a pre printed threat to fine me and that there has been no attempt to explain the decision or investigate the circumstance. To add further fuel to the fire I have been told over the phone by the head teacher that she sees no point in granting me an appointment to see her to discuss the matter. I have sent the head teacher the government guidelines that state the legal position but she maintains that she has the decision to authorise the absence or not

meditrina Fri 28-Nov-14 22:28:12

No, prosecution arises from non-payment of fines only, or a serious failing to provide any suitable education at all to a child of statutory age.

A 4 day absence probably wouldn't trigger a fine even for a statutory age child (even though in theory it could) as most LEAs have a policy which states they begin fines only for single absences of 5 days +, or a series of shorter absences (eg several Fridays in one term).

But they will take note of attendance pattern (which may be relevant if considering future absence requests) and could consider other interventions to improve attendance (unlikely for a one-off, though). I really wouldn't expect any real consequences from one absence (post was a response to Noelle's, really).

But as it sounds like a difficult time for you, ihila, and you won't want embuggerations with the school if you need more time away in the New Year. If it is not too private, you might want to show the school something with the date of your DM's treatment so they can see the timing was out of your hands. This might not change the decision not to authorise, but will show that your request is soundly based. (Sadly, schools see too many sickies and other fakes - especially adding extra days to the holidays - that genuine cases can get an unnecessarily hard time).

writtenguarantee Fri 28-Nov-14 22:29:28

madness. just go. let them fine you for taking your 4 year old visit her ailing grandmother.

absolutely mad this school system.

I hope your mother's treatment goes well.

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