Published On: Mon, Feb 5th, 2024

Mum facing court after taking son on holiday during school time | UK | News

A mum facing court for taking her son to Cyprus for a two-week holiday says it was “educational” in a “way school can’t offer”.

Leah Hilton, 33, and Hayden Harrop, 30, took their two children – aged six and three – on a 15-day family holiday for a wedding, even though they only had permission for a three day absense.

Leah says the couple received a £60 fine addressed to Hayden and thought nothing more of it.

However she later received a Section 444 notice from Hampshire County Council hauling her before the court. Leah claims it says she did not pay her fine.

Leah now says she is “losing sleep” as she faces being fined up to £2,500 or three months behind bars.

Mum-of-two Leah, from Gosport, Hampshire, says the council administrator said she was not able to pay the fine because it was “too late”.

She claims to have spoken to the school in a bid to resolve the issue, and thought that was the end of it when she heard nothing back.

She said: “I’ve been losing sleep over this – I’ve just been really stressed about it and trying to get to the bottom of it.

“How can I pay a fine I never knew I was supposed to have? How is that possible”

“[The holiday] gave us the chance to meet other family members the kids hadn’t met before.

“Me and Hayden did have a discussion about taking them out of school and agreed that it would be beneficial for Mason to take him out of school to have experiences abroad.

“Tickets for the holiday were non-refundable and had already been booked and it being a wedding meant it was a once in a lifetime experience.

“We also discussed the possibility of it impacting future exams and decided it would not.

“When we were on holiday he was able to up close and person with elephants, lemurs and fruit bats.

“His water confidence improved and so did his mental health – it was educational in it’s own way, in a way school can’t offer.”

Hampshire County Council says it sends all fines for unauthorised absenses through first class post. It however said it cannot comment on individual cases.

A spokesperson said: “We work closely with our schools in promoting good attendance to ensure all children get the best from their education.

“There is well documented research which shows that gaps in school attendance can adversely impact on a child’s wellbeing, learning and progress.

“We do understand that daily attendance isn’t always possible for medical reasons or for a small number of children with particular special educational needs, and we continue to work hard with schools and families to improve the situation.

“Department for Education (DfE) guidance is followed in advising headteachers not to authorise absence in term time unless there are exceptional reasons to justify permitting the absence.

“Penalty notices for unauthorised absence can be requested by schools in line with this guidance and, if used, are issued per parent per child.

“As is standard in the majority of legal proceedings, the County Council provides a certificate of service to evidence that the penalty notice was served by first class post, not that it was actually received by the recipient.

“This is accepted by the Courts as evidence of service. If a penalty notice is issued and not paid within the stipulated timescales, local authorities, must take steps to prosecute unless it would not be in the public interest to do so.

“There is no other flexibility for Local Authorities in this regard. Such legal interventions are only used as a last resort.

“It would not be appropriate to discuss individual circumstances, particularly while they may be subject to separate legal proceedings, and therefore we are unable to comment any further.”

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