A human rights group has said that “common sense must prevail” in the case of a couple being prosecuted for taking their son out of school during term time.
Liberty has said it will represent James and Dana Haymore, from Chelmsford, in what has been described as an important test case.
The couple were refused permission to take their 11-year-old boy out of primary school for a family event in America, commemorating the recent death of a relative
The child’s headteacher refused to authorise the absence and the parents were each issued with fines for £60 (rising to £120 if they didn’t pay within three weeks).
They refused to pay on principle and have now been taken to court. If found guilty, they face sizeable fines and ending up with a criminal record.
Liberty will argue that the decision to prosecute the Haymores breaches the Human Rights Act. The case is set to resume later this year, with a trial set for October.
Rosie Brighouse, Liberty’s legal officer, said: “Is criminalising parents for taking their children out of school for momentous family events really the best use of council resources, court time and public money?
“The rules that led to the Haymores’ ordeal go no way towards addressing the deeper and more complex social problems that contribute to some children repeatedly missing school.”
Prior to September last year, headteachers had the discretion to allow up to 10 days authorised absence from school. But new, stricter rules mean that absence will only be allowed in “exceptional” circumstances. Critics argue that schools have not received guidance on what constitutes “exceptional”.