Patel family penalised for flying to the bedside of ailing grandfather without primary school’s permission
A couple who took their children out of primary school to visit a sick grandparent in India without the proper permission are being taken to court this week as part of a Government push to penalise out-of-term school absences.
Shahnawaz and Sofiya Patel had put in a request to take their sons Omar, 11, and Eiad, eight, out of the English Martyrs Catholic primary in Preston, Lancashire so that they could travel to India where their grandfather was undergoing surgery.
The request was refused, but the family decided to make the trip because the boys had not seen their grandfather for 5 years and had missed the funeral of their grandmother, who died in a car crash 3 years ago.
“We did not want our children to miss out on potentially their only opportunity to see their grandfather in person so we decided to take them with us,” said Mr Patel.
Both children have had no previous unauthorised absences, and the Patels asked for school work to take with them on the trip.
However, the Patels have since been issued with 4 penalty notices and fined £480 for taking the boys out of school as part of a crack down on parents taking their children on holiday during term-time that aims to boost school attendance.
The situation worsened after Mr. Patel offered to pay the fines and asked the council for the court hearing to be cancelled because: “I no longer have the mental, physical or financial ability to carry on with the trial and hope you will show sympathy for the crisis that we as a family are currently facing.”
However, Lancashire county council said that because the payment period had expired he would have to attend the hearing at Preston magistrates court this week.
Mr. Patel, a paralegal, wrote to the education secretary, Nicky Morgan pleading his case. However, the department for education replied that it is “unable to comment or intervene in Lancashire county council’s decision to prosecute.”
Mr. Patel intends to fight the case in court on Wednesday.