A primary school in Shropshire has refused a nine-year-old boy permission to miss school and attend his mother’s wedding.
Claire Whitelegg, 30, said she asked the head teacher at Clive C of E Primary School if her son could be absent for three days this week while the ceremony takes place in her hometown in Cornwall.
She said that because she and her fiancé work full time for the police they had been unable to arrange to both have time off during school holidays – and that she believed this meant their case should be classed as the sort of “exceptional circumstances” now legally required for heads to grant leave.
But the school has said that it was only informed of the wedding plans at the start of last week – and that leave likely would have been permitted if Ms Whitelegg had provided more details.
As of 1 September 2013, schools can no longer let pupils miss classes for up to 10 days a year due to “special circumstances”, and the new stricter rules carry penalty notices of £50 to £100. Prosecution can result in a fine of up to £2,500 and a jail sentence.
Speaking to BBC News ahead of her wedding tomorrow, Ms Whitelegg said she would ignore the school’s decision and appeal any fines.
She said: “My partner and I both work full time for the police and we do shift work. It's almost impossible for us to get leave at the same time as each other in the school holidays, so we couldn't wait until then.”
Clive C of E’s head teacher Mary Lucas said the school had an “open door policy” for such situations, adding that the school had in this case received a brief note in writing mentioning a “mother’s wedding” with just five working days’ notice.
Ms Lucas said: “If she had come into school to talk to me about it and explain it was her own wedding and why it had to be on this particular date, such as her working patterns, then it would have been quite likely that we would have agreed it was exceptional circumstances.”
Shropshire Council said in a statement that it “promotes national guidelines that discourage parents from taking holidays during school term-time unless there are exceptional circumstances”, adding that each specific case was “up to the head teacher to decide”.
A spokesperson for the council added that given fines are only imposed for five or more days of unauthorised absence, penalty notices were unlikely to be an issue in Ms Whitelegg’s case.