A MUM has spoken of her disgust after she was given a £240 fine for taking her children out of school to spend time with their dad, who is in the army.
Gunner Dean Peters recently joined the army and was away for 14 weeks training.
The 31-year-old was allowed to return home for just six days before going away again for a further 14 weeks.
So Corina Peters, from Lovedean, applied for authorised leave so her children Lexy, 11, Kiera, eight, and Hayden, seven, could spend time with their dad.
Lexy is a student at Horndean Technology College, and she was given the go-ahead by the school.
But Kiera and Hayden, who both attend Woodcroft Primary School in Waterlooville, were denied permission and now the family have been hit with a fine of £240.
My husband is serving for his country and he gets fined for spending a few days with his childrenCorina Peters
Mrs Peters said she is disgusted at the response.
‘We applied for absence so we could spend time together as a family,’ the 29-year-old said.
‘The headteacher showed no sign of sympathy. I think it’s absolutely disgusting.
‘My husband is serving his country and he gets fined for spending a few days with his children.
‘I think it’s absolutely appalling how they have gone about it.
‘I could understand if they were away for a holiday but he was away for 14 weeks.
‘I am really cross. I’m taking it further with the school.
‘Their attendance in general apart from the odd couple of days is good.
‘Even if they are poorly we send them to school so they can send them home. They are where they should be in their learning.’
Mrs Peters said the children greatly enjoyed spending time together as a family.
‘The children absolutely loved it,’ she said. ‘It was for my husband as well. It was very difficult for him.
‘He’s joined the army at quite a late age so it was difficult for him anyway to leave for that length of time. He needed the break because it’s quite hard.
‘It was relaxing for him to come home and spend time with his kids as well.
‘Now, he is stressed out and worried because he has had this fine and it’s right before Christmas as well.
‘I don’t want to pay it but they are telling me if I don’t pay it, it will be doubled.
‘I don’t see why we should have to pay the school for the children to spend a few days with their dad.’
John Webster, acting headteacher at Woodcroft Primary School, said: ‘We have every respect for parents who are in the armed services and are not unsympathetic to requests for absence during term-time when there are valid reasons to grant such requests.
‘Our overriding concern and duty in all cases however, is to consider the impact of such requests on the education of pupils. I can assure you that their personal situation was taken into account but, ultimately, in our considered view, the request for authorised absence in this instance did not meet the criteria for exceptional circumstances.
‘As a school we are guided by Department for Education policy and, in the case of children from service families, the Army Covenant, which states that exceptional circumstances apply to bereavement or serious illness.
‘In the Army Covenant, there are no grounds for parents to apply for term time leave for their children to coincide with their parents’ pre-tour leave or ‘rest and recuperation’.
‘I, and our chair of governors have met Mrs Peters and personally explained the rationale behind the decision to decline the leave request.’
Absence levels are above the national average
CORINA Peters’ fine comes just months after statistics showed the number of absent pupils is still above the national average locally.
Figures released by Portsmouth City Council show 6.4 per cent of children have been off secondary school over the 2014/15 academic year without permission, compared with 5.2 per cent nationally, in 2013/14.
In Gosport, 6.1 per cent of children were absent from secondary school in 2013/14 and 5.5 per cent were absent in Havant. In Fareham the figure was below the national average, at 4.9 per cent.
Penalty notices of £60 or £120 can be issued by headteachers to parents for pupil non-attendance.
Authorities can’t take parents to court without first getting an order to monitor the pupil’s education.
A council can apply for a School Attendance Order if it thinks a pupil is not attending a school.
This requires parents to register children. If this is not done then the council can prosecute parents.
Authorities can also apply for an Education Supervision Order to be put on the child and the local authority and it is set by the court. Authorities can ask parents to take part in parenting contracts, which are voluntary.