Father challenges unauthorised absence prosecution

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Father to challenge decision to prosecute him for son's unauthorised absence from school.

A father who took his three children out of primary school to attend their great-grandfather's memorial service in the USA faces prosecution for failing to ensure his eldest son attends school regularly. Mr Haymore requested permission to take his children out of school during term time to attend the memorial service, but was refused permission by the head teacher in respect of his eldest child. He took the child anyway and was issued with a fixed penalty notice.

Since 1 September 2013 a head teacher may only grant leave of absence during term time where there are exceptional circumstances. What amounts to an "exceptional circumstance" lies within the discretion of the head teacher. A parent who takes their child out of school without leave being granted can be issued with a fixed penalty notice. The fixed penalty is £60 if paid within the first 21 days of issue rising to £120 if paid after 21 days but within 28 days. A failure to pay the fixed penalty notice can lead to the parent being prosecuted for failing to ensure their child attends school regularly.

Mr Haymore refused to pay the fixed penalty and has now been summoned to appear before the Magistrates Court. He has indicated that he will challenge the decision to prosecute him on the basis that it breaches the Human Rights Act and his children's right to a family life. Assuming Mr Haymore decides to proceed with his challenge, it will be interesting to see what the implications are for the efficacy of the legislation and the exercise of the discretion to grant leave of absence.