Mum gets criminal record after taking son out of school to be with dying granddad

Sally Randall was taken to court for taking her teenage son out of school to fulfill his grandfather's dying wish for a final family holiday

mum-gets-criminal-record-after-taking-son-out-of-school-to-be-with-dying-granddad_54116

A mother who took her son out of school to go on a final holiday with his dying granddad has been taken to court on truancy charges.

Advertisement

Sally Randall, 35, says it was her father-in-law’s dying wish to have a last holiday abroad with his family. So she asked Norden High School for permission to take her son James, 13, out of school for a 10-day trip to Majorca. 

The Lancashire school refused Sally permission, on the grounds that the reason for James’ absence was not an ‘exceptional circumstance’.

The mum-of-three went ahead with the trip anyway. James’ grandfather, Graham, died 3 months later of pancreatic cancer.

Jane, who also has two other sons, Joe, 5, and Beaudie, 3, was issued with a truancy fine of £120, as is now standard in cases of authorised absence. 

Due to an admin mix-up, though, the paperwork was sent to Jane’s old address. And because she, therefore, didn’t pay the fine, she ended up in Blackburn Magistrates Court, where she was handed a 6-month conditional discharge – and a criminal record.

“I understand I broke the law,” said Sally, “but, if the head teacher doesn’t think a grandparent dying is an exceptional circumstance, then I don’t know what is.”

She said: “It’s upsetting because I’ve never been in trouble with the police in my life.

“I don’t see why I should have something on my record, no matter how small.

“I understand I broke the law, but if the headteacher doesn’t think a grandparent dying is an exceptional circumstance then I don’t know what is.

“When I spoke to the head teacher he said it’s the law; it’s not up to him. It’s not fair, we did send him a letter, but he said if I can afford to pay for the holiday, I can afford to pay for the fine.

“I think it’s disgusting. Graham is dead now. As soon as we came back from holiday he was more or less in the hospice.

“The kids talk about that holiday every single week. His last wish has been granted, and they’ll always remember their grandad. It’s just a shame it’s ended like this.”

She said: “It’s upsetting because I’ve never been in trouble with the police in my life.

“I don’t see why I should have something on my record, no matter how small.

“I understand I broke the law, but if the headteacher doesn’t think a grandparent dying is an exceptional circumstance then I don’t know what is.

“When I spoke to the head teacher he said it’s the law, it’s not up to him.

“It’s not fair, we did send him a letter, but he said if I can afford to pay for the holiday, I can afford to pay for the fine.

“I think it’s disgusting. Graham is dead now. As soon as we came back from holiday he was more or less in the hospice.

“The kids talk about that holiday every single week. His last wish has been granted, and they’ll always remember their grandad. It’s just a shame it’s ended like this.”

The school’s head teacher said it wasn’t appropriate to discuss the details of this individual case. “The government’s guidelines on absence during term time changed in September last year. Head teachers should only authorise a leave of absence in exceptional circumstances. These are only considered if no other option is possible and an absence from school is necessary during the term.”

So, what are the rules around truancy?

  • Parents of children aged five to 16 are legally responsible for ensuring they attend school regularly – unless they are home educated.
  • Parents must ask permission from the head teacher if they want to take their children out of school during term time – but it can only be done in advance or if there are ‘exceptional circumstances’.
  • It is up to the head teacher to decide the length of time allowed off school, if a request is granted.
  • Parents can be issued with penalty notices of £60, which rise to £120 if they are paid between 21 and 28 days
  • If this is not paid, a prosecution will follow – and this can lead to a fine of up to £2,500, a three-month jail term or a community sentence. 

What do you think? Was the head teacher right to refuse this term-time holiday or not? Do please let us know your thoughts in the Comments box below.

Read more:

Advertisement

Comments

Please read our Chat guidelines.