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Couple face court for taking children out of school to see sick grandfather

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couple face picLONDON: A couple who took their children out of school without permission to visit their sick grandfather in India are being taken to court this week as part of the government’s continuing crackdown on term-time absence.

Shahnawaz and Sofiya Patel had put in a request to their two sons’ primary school for an authorised absence to make the trip last December when the children’s grandfather was undergoing surgery. It was the first time the Patels, from Preston, Lancashire, had made such a request, and their children – Omar, 11, and Eiad, eight – have had no previous unauthorised absences, but their school, the English Martyrs Catholic primary in Preston, refused permission.

The children’s grandmother died three years earlier in a car crash; they did not go to the funeral and had not seen their grandfather, who survived the accident, for five years – so the Patels went ahead with the trip.

“We did not want our children to miss out on potentially their only opportunity to see their grandfather in person so we decided to take them with us,” said Mr Patel.

Since September 2013, local authorities have to fine families who take children out of school for unauthorised absences. The government’s chief aim has been to raise school attendance and crack down on parents taking children on holiday during term time, but parents have complained that holiday companies raise their prices for school holidays, making it too expensive for many to travel.

According to government guidelines, children can only be taken out of school during term time following an application to the headteacher and if circumstances are “exceptional”. The Patels were told their circumstances were “not exceptional”.

The Patels have since been issued with four penalty notices and fined £480. After subsequently discovering that his father’s condition was more serious than first thought.

He wrote to the council: “Under the circumstances we believe the matter no longer serves the interests of either party. The psychological wounds of my mother’s death haven’t yet been healed and we are now faced with a rather more difficult circumstance that adds further to our woes. —Courtesy Guardian

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