Parents who took their 10-year-old daughter out of school for 13 days to home school her so they could ‘save their family business’ are being taken to court after failing to pay the absence fine issued to them by Lancashire County Council.
Faye and Ryan Moffat, who run Nicholson’s Butchers in Nelson, said they had no choice but to take their two children, Amalie, 10, and Isobelle, 14, out of the classroom before Christmas, because the risk of catching Covid and having to close the shop at the busiest time was not an option.
Mrs Moffat, who is also a level four teaching assistant, said she made the decision as she and her husband could not risk one of their daughters being sent home to self-isolate, as this would mean the whole family would need to remain at home for 10 days, forcing them to close their shop.
She said: “We are the only people who work in the butchers, and if Amalie or Isobelle had been told to self-isolate because a child in their bubble had tested positive for Covid, we would have lost everything.
“We would have been forced to close, just before Christmas, when it was our busiest time, busier than the previous year, and we would have suffered unimaginable financial losses, not to mention all the people we would’ve had to let down for the Christmas dinners.
“We don’t have any other source of income. We could not take that risk. Losing the money from the Christmas trade, which also sets us up for January, would have had a bigger impact on the children than them missing two weeks of school.
“And I was more than prepared to home school them, as I am a qualified TA.”
Mrs Moffat said she had wanted to go about the absences in the correct way, and had filled out an absence request form for youngest daughter, Amalie, who attends Roughlee Primary School in Roughlee, but it was rejected by the school.
She took her daughters out of class anyway, but said Amalie’s absence had now been put down as a ‘family holiday’, not as an unauthorised absence, and was shocked when she received two £60 fines – one for her and one for Mr Moffat.
She added: “That was the biggest insult. The school put it down as a family holiday – we didn’t go anywhere. We were trying to save our livelihoods and I feel like we’ve been made an example of.
“We refused to pay the fines. If we had been on holiday then fair enough, but I was home schooling them both, even though the school refused to provide Amalie with any work.
“They are both exceptional children, they love school, are bright, and excel in all subjects.
“Isobelle’s school did not object, but Roughlee did.
“We received our fines after the schools had closed due to the third lockdown. And to top it off, there was a Covid outbreak at the school in January anyway and it had to close to key worker children between January 19 and February 1.”
Legal proceedings have now been brought against the Moffats by the county council but the couple say they intend to go to court to plead their case.
Mrs Moffat added: “Since then, my husband and I have both been banned from the school grounds.
“The ban is because we posted the details on the Nicholson’s Butchers social media page.
“But we feel victimised. I’m shocked and upset.”
A spokesperson for Lancashire County Council said: “Good school attendance is a high priority. It is particularly vital in the current situation that children attend regularly when schools are able to open.
“Any decision to authorise absences are taken by individual headteachers, rather the county council. We are unable to comment on specific cases.
“Where a parent fails to send their child to school regularly, schools can request that the county council issues a penalty notice.
“We encourage schools to work with parents to reduce unauthorised absence, so that children and young people attend school and access their education.”
Headteacher of Roughlee CofE Primary School, Mark Elliott, said: “Our key priority at the moment is to ensure that pupils’ education can continue in school, and we’ve worked hard to make our school as safe as we can for our pupils, parents and staff.
“We’ve also worked with parents to put additional measures in place, based on particular personal circumstances.
“We remind all of our parents and pupils to follow the rules and guidelines when on the school site regularly, for the safety and wellbeing of everyone.
“Once we’re aware of a positive case, we take detailed steps to identify who that person has been in close contact with, and ask those people to self-isolate. This reduces the need for whole ‘bubbles’ to self-isolate if they’re not required to do so.
“It wouldn’t be appropriate for us to comment however on individual circumstances and situations.”