Parents receive £120 fine from Harefield Academy for taking son on first holiday in seven years

John and Lin Styles with their son Liam

John and Lin Styles with their son Liam

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A mother and father are furious after they came back from holiday to find a fine from their son’s school for an unauthorised absence - despite informing teachers of the trip.

Photographer John Styles of Pinner Park Avenue, and his wife Lin, took their son to Estonia in December, in the family’s first holiday in seven years - but were each fined £60 when they returned.

Their son Liam, a year-seven gymnast and swimmer at Harefield Academy in Uxbridge - who had even received a certificate for his 100 per cent attendance record - was absent for four days before the Christmas break.

The family went on the trip because Mrs Styles was recovering from having her stomach removed after suffering from cancer and Mr Styles was recovering from knee surgery.

They have also had to look after Liam’s grandmother, who died on Saturday after suffering from Alzheimer’s for eight years, and his grandfather, who has dementia.

Mr Styles said the school had been informed of the trip, which the family badly needed, and that some of the teachers wished them a happy holiday.

He said: “We went and tried to relax.

“The nicest thing about the whole trip was getting to see my son just be a normal child because this has been such a difficult time for the family.”

When the family returned from holiday they found a letter asking them to pay £60 each because of the absence.

Mrs Styles contacted the school and asked to speak to the headteacher but was refused.

They were put through to the attendance officer and Mrs Styles broke down into tears when explaining the situation to the school.

She was told to write the school a letter so the situation could be resolved, which she did.

A few weeks later the family received a letter from Hillingdon Council saying they had one week to pay the fine or it would double and they might have to appear in court.

Mr Styles said: “I was happy to go to court, put my case to the judge and then if he wants to fine me, he can.”

He decided to pay the fine after his wife’s boss called and said she was very upset at work and he should consider her health and just pay the fine.

The family paid the fine last Wednesday but do not believe they were at fault.

Mr Styles said: “I really think this is wrong.

“I think it’s so unfair because my son has never had to be forced to go to school – he loves it.

“I’m disgusted by the school because they couldn’t even talk to us.”

Harefield Academy headteacher Lynn Gadd said the school would never allow a student to be absent during term time, even if the student had a 100 per cent attendance record.

She said: “This is government policy and all schools have to follow this rule.

“It makes no difference who the family are.”

Comments (17)

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8:32am Thu 28 Feb 13

jayjoe says...

It's a tough but fair policy. The school is right.
It's not good enough simply to drop into conversation with a teacher that you're taking your child on holiday during term time. You have to put it in writing and then the school has to *approve* (or disallow) the absence too.
Perhaps if this couple had explained the circumstances in a letter before (not after the fine had arrived) removing their son from his lessons, the outcome might have been different.
Lesson learned?
It's a tough but fair policy. The school is right. It's not good enough simply to drop into conversation with a teacher that you're taking your child on holiday during term time. You have to put it in writing and then the school has to *approve* (or disallow) the absence too. Perhaps if this couple had explained the circumstances in a letter before (not after the fine had arrived) removing their son from his lessons, the outcome might have been different. Lesson learned? jayjoe
  • Score: -1

11:02am Thu 28 Feb 13

helenvecht says...

It would appear that sympathy and empathy do not feature on this school's syllabus.
It would appear that sympathy and empathy do not feature on this school's syllabus. helenvecht
  • Score: 1

1:40pm Fri 1 Mar 13

Humanbeing12 says...

JayJoe
You need to read the article again, the school were informed 3 weeks before the planed holiday. Yes it would be fair if some people in our caring society who flaunt laws and get away with it were punished instesd of laughing at society. You do not know this family and what they have been through. Their is an old saying
"Never judge a man till you have walked a mile in his shoes" Take heed. The school were very wrong.
JayJoe You need to read the article again, the school were informed 3 weeks before the planed holiday. Yes it would be fair if some people in our caring society who flaunt laws and get away with it were punished instesd of laughing at society. You do not know this family and what they have been through. Their is an old saying "Never judge a man till you have walked a mile in his shoes" Take heed. The school were very wrong. Humanbeing12
  • Score: 1

5:32pm Fri 1 Mar 13

Harrow Rani says...

The problem is that if you make an exception in this case, then, every parent wishing to take their child out of school in term time will have a hard luck story to tell. I am not saying this family are not genuinely entitled to a fairer decision but sadly you cannot account for everyone else who will jump on the bandwagon and claim that they too should be treated as an exception which set a dangerous precedent for the school , and makes it impossible for them to manage the policy long-term.
The problem is that if you make an exception in this case, then, every parent wishing to take their child out of school in term time will have a hard luck story to tell. I am not saying this family are not genuinely entitled to a fairer decision but sadly you cannot account for everyone else who will jump on the bandwagon and claim that they too should be treated as an exception which set a dangerous precedent for the school , and makes it impossible for them to manage the policy long-term. Harrow Rani
  • Score: 0

9:50pm Fri 1 Mar 13

starbright says...

I do not understand why there were 2 lots of fines for one family? I do think the fines are a bit harsh considering the school was informed? This child has had a certificate for a 100% attendance which shows that he does not shirk school. All schools generally wind down the last few days before Christmas, and not a lot of school work is done. This family obviously needed a break and my feeling is the school have been extremely unfair, especially as it appears it is a one off?
I do not understand why there were 2 lots of fines for one family? I do think the fines are a bit harsh considering the school was informed? This child has had a certificate for a 100% attendance which shows that he does not shirk school. All schools generally wind down the last few days before Christmas, and not a lot of school work is done. This family obviously needed a break and my feeling is the school have been extremely unfair, especially as it appears it is a one off? starbright
  • Score: 1

10:26pm Sun 3 Mar 13

accessible says...

Clearly, the parents have followed the correct procedure by writing to the school to inform them of their intention to take their son out of school for 4 days just before the Christmas break. It appears that the school have not even acknowledged the letter as the Mother had to contact the school 3 weeks after sending the letter in because she had received no response.

The correct procedure should then be that the Head Teacher should consider whether the absence should be authorized for exceptional leave and then respond to the parents in writing to inform them whether it is authorized or unauthorized.

Upon receiving the letter in the New Year, the parents contacted the Head Teacher who was dismissive and not interested and passed the call to the Attendance Officer. The Attendance Officer told the Mother to write in again with the circumstances and that she would sort it out. The Attendance Officer who is clearly a ‘jobs worth’ completed her paperwork and just made sure the parents were fined and no doubt she received her commission at the end of the month. She should be dealing with the kids who repeatedly truant because their parents can’t be bothered to make sure they are in school.

This penalty notice system that was brought in by the Government is surely directed at those parents who continually remove their children from school for holidays or children that truant regularly. This child has had 4 days off in 7 years – not exactly a hardcore truant.

I suspect the fines the council charge are used to pay for the taxis that have to take those lazy good for nothing loser kids to school because they cant be trusted to get to school off their own steam.

I admit to taking my 2 children out of school on 2 occasion due to family holidays – received a standard letter to say it would go down as unauthorized and anxiously awaited a fine. I never received a fine on either occasion. I have many friends who have taken their children out of school for long weekends away or family holidays – again never fined.

These parents have been upfront and honest by informing the school of their intentions when in actual fact they could have just telephoned in the four days and said their child is sick. Something I know that many parents do.

We all know the last 4 days prior to the Christmas Holidays that Teachers are not mad busy starting new topics with the students – it is wind down time and rehearsing songs for the school play.

Time together for any parents with their children is extremely valuable and its worth should not be underestimated. Travelling abroad can also broaden the horizons of children who will experience different environments and cultures.

And as for Rani and JayJoe - read the article again!!
Clearly, the parents have followed the correct procedure by writing to the school to inform them of their intention to take their son out of school for 4 days just before the Christmas break. It appears that the school have not even acknowledged the letter as the Mother had to contact the school 3 weeks after sending the letter in because she had received no response. The correct procedure should then be that the Head Teacher should consider whether the absence should be authorized for exceptional leave and then respond to the parents in writing to inform them whether it is authorized or unauthorized. Upon receiving the letter in the New Year, the parents contacted the Head Teacher who was dismissive and not interested and passed the call to the Attendance Officer. The Attendance Officer told the Mother to write in again with the circumstances and that she would sort it out. The Attendance Officer who is clearly a ‘jobs worth’ completed her paperwork and just made sure the parents were fined and no doubt she received her commission at the end of the month. She should be dealing with the kids who repeatedly truant because their parents can’t be bothered to make sure they are in school. This penalty notice system that was brought in by the Government is surely directed at those parents who continually remove their children from school for holidays or children that truant regularly. This child has had 4 days off in 7 years – not exactly a hardcore truant. I suspect the fines the council charge are used to pay for the taxis that have to take those lazy good for nothing loser kids to school because they cant be trusted to get to school off their own steam. I admit to taking my 2 children out of school on 2 occasion due to family holidays – received a standard letter to say it would go down as unauthorized and anxiously awaited a fine. I never received a fine on either occasion. I have many friends who have taken their children out of school for long weekends away or family holidays – again never fined. These parents have been upfront and honest by informing the school of their intentions when in actual fact they could have just telephoned in the four days and said their child is sick. Something I know that many parents do. We all know the last 4 days prior to the Christmas Holidays that Teachers are not mad busy starting new topics with the students – it is wind down time and rehearsing songs for the school play. Time together for any parents with their children is extremely valuable and its worth should not be underestimated. Travelling abroad can also broaden the horizons of children who will experience different environments and cultures. And as for Rani and JayJoe - read the article again!! accessible
  • Score: 1

9:06am Mon 4 Mar 13

Harrow Rani says...

Accessible, I did read the article. As far as I can see, it alludes to the fact that they contacted the head and the attendance officer AFTER they had received the fine!
Accessible, I did read the article. As far as I can see, it alludes to the fact that they contacted the head and the attendance officer AFTER they had received the fine! Harrow Rani
  • Score: -1

11:06am Mon 4 Mar 13

accessible says...

Rani - try it with your glasses on....1st paragraph!!

A mother and father are furious after they came back from holiday to find a fine from their son’s school for an unauthorised absence - despite informing teachers of the trip.

Mr Styles said the school had been informed of the trip, which the family badly needed, and that some of the teachers wished them a happy holiday.
Rani - try it with your glasses on....1st paragraph!! A mother and father are furious after they came back from holiday to find a fine from their son’s school for an unauthorised absence - despite informing teachers of the trip. Mr Styles said the school had been informed of the trip, which the family badly needed, and that some of the teachers wished them a happy holiday. accessible
  • Score: 1

11:21am Mon 4 Mar 13

Harrow Rani says...

Accessible, Try reading with your magnifying glass love,

"When the family returned from holiday they found a letter asking them to pay £60 each because of the absence.

Mrs Styles contacted the school and asked to speak to the headteacher but was refused.

They were put through to the attendance officer and Mrs Styles broke down into tears when explaining the situation to the school."

You must be closely related to the family concerned because you have much more detailed information.than appears in the article and I am guessing that is why you are unable to be be objective about mine and Jayjoes post.
Accessible, Try reading with your magnifying glass love, "When the family returned from holiday they found a letter asking them to pay £60 each because of the absence. Mrs Styles contacted the school and asked to speak to the headteacher but was refused. They were put through to the attendance officer and Mrs Styles broke down into tears when explaining the situation to the school." You must be closely related to the family concerned because you have much more detailed information.than appears in the article and I am guessing that is why you are unable to be be objective about mine and Jayjoes post. Harrow Rani
  • Score: -1

11:39am Mon 4 Mar 13

accessible says...

Of course the parents contacted the school upon receiving the fine - who wouldn't?

The school had been notified by letter and a follow up telephone call prior to the trip. What part of that do you not understand?

Yes, how very clever of you to work out that I am a friend of the family. It irritates me that they have been made an example of.

Hope your day gets better Rani.
Of course the parents contacted the school upon receiving the fine - who wouldn't? The school had been notified by letter and a follow up telephone call prior to the trip. What part of that do you not understand? Yes, how very clever of you to work out that I am a friend of the family. It irritates me that they have been made an example of. Hope your day gets better Rani. accessible
  • Score: 1

12:03pm Mon 4 Mar 13

Harrow Rani says...

Such hostility is not necessary accessible. You have every right to be angy on behalf of you friends. i would be too if I felt my friends were being made an example of. I hope your day also improves.too
Such hostility is not necessary accessible. You have every right to be angy on behalf of you friends. i would be too if I felt my friends were being made an example of. I hope your day also improves.too Harrow Rani
  • Score: -1

12:30pm Mon 4 Mar 13

accessible says...

No hostility, I assure you.
No hostility, I assure you. accessible
  • Score: 1

6:58pm Mon 4 Mar 13

disi_doo@hotmail.com says...

I am usually a person of elaborate vocabulary when an injustice has been brought to my attention, but talk is seemingly cheap in this circumvoluted, avoid the truth at all costs societal modern syndrome. It makes an honest person totally disillusioned with the system! So minimally & succinctly......I would just like to freely, within the democracy that I indigenously reside in, express my views on a personal agenda of a complete lack of justice! Having left Harrow some 16 years ago, I have remained loyal friends to my Dear Friends........They have been through the mangle health-wise, beyond the emotion of their major physical set-backs....have made huge, loyal sacrifices towards their talented son.....Dare to have a well-deserved break from the so-called norm, wisely supplying their children with reward from parental ailments & return, after 7 years of abstinence, to an insulting fine for allowing the children to relax from the pressures of regular, daily life! The truth of such absurdity always surfaces, given time! May true justice prevail from this wholesome innocent scenario! What a disgrace!
I am usually a person of elaborate vocabulary when an injustice has been brought to my attention, but talk is seemingly cheap in this circumvoluted, avoid the truth at all costs societal modern syndrome. It makes an honest person totally disillusioned with the system! So minimally & succinctly......I would just like to freely, within the democracy that I indigenously reside in, express my views on a personal agenda of a complete lack of justice! Having left Harrow some 16 years ago, I have remained loyal friends to my Dear Friends........They have been through the mangle health-wise, beyond the emotion of their major physical set-backs....have made huge, loyal sacrifices towards their talented son.....Dare to have a well-deserved break from the so-called norm, wisely supplying their children with reward from parental ailments & return, after 7 years of abstinence, to an insulting fine for allowing the children to relax from the pressures of regular, daily life! The truth of such absurdity always surfaces, given time! May true justice prevail from this wholesome innocent scenario! What a disgrace! disi_doo@hotmail.com
  • Score: 1

7:35pm Mon 4 Mar 13

Humanbeing12 says...

The Gospel According to John”, chapter 8, verses 3–7
Let him who is without sin cast the first stone
Rani are you related to JayJoe by any chance, you both seem to have the same sad views, take your head out from where it obviously is and read this story again and again until it makes scene to you if it ever will. You accused this family of using a hard luck story. Only somebody who is in the habit of using sob stories would think such a thing after reading their story. Do you use hard luck stories to get what you want, so you think everyone is just like you? No from reading this story I feel this family have had a bit of a bad run and most definitely needed a break their son had never been out of school once in 7years, sounds to me like this family take their son’s education very seriously. Shame there is not more parents like them. For that lady to go through a Cancer ordeal and her son did not miss a day of school. Having to deal with one ill parent is hard but two is unimaginable yet their son still attended school and never missed a day, it’s a meddle these parents need not a fine The school should be using them as a role model not punishing them for being honest parents. That is another thing missing from our multi mixed culture society. You make fun at this lady breaking down whilst talking to the attendance officer, that is not nice I would think if you had to deal with one ounce of the pressure this family seem to be under, even a heartless person (thing) like yourself may also break down. I see the child lost his Ill grandmother on Saturday last week sympathy to his family, or would you think that was a hard luck story to Rani.
As for your tennis match with accessible I would say the final score was 4 love to accessible.
Try hard to think before you open your mouth again and that goes for your cousin brother as well
Grow a heart the two of you
The Gospel According to John”, chapter 8, verses 3–7 Let him who is without sin cast the first stone Rani are you related to JayJoe by any chance, you both seem to have the same sad views, take your head out from where it obviously is and read this story again and again until it makes scene to you if it ever will. You accused this family of using a hard luck story. Only somebody who is in the habit of using sob stories would think such a thing after reading their story. Do you use hard luck stories to get what you want, so you think everyone is just like you? No from reading this story I feel this family have had a bit of a bad run and most definitely needed a break their son had never been out of school once in 7years, sounds to me like this family take their son’s education very seriously. Shame there is not more parents like them. For that lady to go through a Cancer ordeal and her son did not miss a day of school. Having to deal with one ill parent is hard but two is unimaginable yet their son still attended school and never missed a day, it’s a meddle these parents need not a fine The school should be using them as a role model not punishing them for being honest parents. That is another thing missing from our multi mixed culture society. You make fun at this lady breaking down whilst talking to the attendance officer, that is not nice I would think if you had to deal with one ounce of the pressure this family seem to be under, even a heartless person (thing) like yourself may also break down. I see the child lost his Ill grandmother on Saturday last week sympathy to his family, or would you think that was a hard luck story to Rani. As for your tennis match with accessible I would say the final score was 4 love to accessible. Try hard to think before you open your mouth again and that goes for your cousin brother as well Grow a heart the two of you Humanbeing12
  • Score: 1

8:22pm Mon 4 Mar 13

positablo says...

I am in America. It would be abhorrent for the local school to impose a fine, let alone to fine both parents?
What kind of system penalizes a family for being a family? A father for giving love and care to his children who are in need of some R & R from a very trying few years?
I know Liam and know him to be a very caring, smart child, and he knows the injustice here.
Teach your children well, they are your future - would you want your family penalized in this way?
Godspeed, Styles family.
I am in America. It would be abhorrent for the local school to impose a fine, let alone to fine both parents? What kind of system penalizes a family for being a family? A father for giving love and care to his children who are in need of some R & R from a very trying few years? I know Liam and know him to be a very caring, smart child, and he knows the injustice here. Teach your children well, they are your future - would you want your family penalized in this way? Godspeed, Styles family. positablo
  • Score: 1

11:03am Fri 8 Mar 13

ronnie20 says...

After reading all the comments on this subject, I find that it is very difficult to say much without being extremely abusive about what my opinion is towards the conduct of this school's government. As I understand it, the Government issued the GUIDE lines with respect to those parents who allow their children to be or are "Persistently Absent" and that the school in question has " Discretionary Powers?" to deal with the matter. I see none of this in the matter at hand. As for the comments made by a couple of people ( who are rightfully allowed their own views) I would hope they are never in any position to which this family have been. As for saying too much more, all I have to say is, I think the person who made the decision was completely wrong and should do exactly the same as that MP in the "plebb- gate affair" and resign. ACADAMY in my book has always meant "Better" but this I feel is the wrong word. "Archaic" would be more likely.
After reading all the comments on this subject, I find that it is very difficult to say much without being extremely abusive about what my opinion is towards the conduct of this school's government. As I understand it, the Government issued the GUIDE lines with respect to those parents who allow their children to be or are "Persistently Absent" and that the school in question has " Discretionary Powers?" to deal with the matter. I see none of this in the matter at hand. As for the comments made by a couple of people ( who are rightfully allowed their own views) I would hope they are never in any position to which this family have been. As for saying too much more, all I have to say is, I think the person who made the decision was completely wrong and should do exactly the same as that MP in the "plebb- gate affair" and resign. ACADAMY in my book has always meant "Better" but this I feel is the wrong word. "Archaic" would be more likely. ronnie20
  • Score: 1

11:14am Fri 8 Mar 13

Humanbeing12 says...

ronnie20 wrote:
After reading all the comments on this subject, I find that it is very difficult to say much without being extremely abusive about what my opinion is towards the conduct of this school's government. As I understand it, the Government issued the GUIDE lines with respect to those parents who allow their children to be or are "Persistently Absent" and that the school in question has " Discretionary Powers?" to deal with the matter. I see none of this in the matter at hand. As for the comments made by a couple of people ( who are rightfully allowed their own views) I would hope they are never in any position to which this family have been. As for saying too much more, all I have to say is, I think the person who made the decision was completely wrong and should do exactly the same as that MP in the "plebb- gate affair" and resign. ACADAMY in my book has always meant "Better" but this I feel is the wrong word. "Archaic" would be more likely.
Well said Ronnie20 I like your comment about the person who made this decision should resign along with the head teacher.
[quote][p][bold]ronnie20[/bold] wrote: After reading all the comments on this subject, I find that it is very difficult to say much without being extremely abusive about what my opinion is towards the conduct of this school's government. As I understand it, the Government issued the GUIDE lines with respect to those parents who allow their children to be or are "Persistently Absent" and that the school in question has " Discretionary Powers?" to deal with the matter. I see none of this in the matter at hand. As for the comments made by a couple of people ( who are rightfully allowed their own views) I would hope they are never in any position to which this family have been. As for saying too much more, all I have to say is, I think the person who made the decision was completely wrong and should do exactly the same as that MP in the "plebb- gate affair" and resign. ACADAMY in my book has always meant "Better" but this I feel is the wrong word. "Archaic" would be more likely.[/p][/quote]Well said Ronnie20 I like your comment about the person who made this decision should resign along with the head teacher. Humanbeing12
  • Score: 1

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