Mum defies council’s gagging order to speak out on term time holiday criminal record

The Sunday Times is reporting that a mother who was prosecuted for taking her children out of school during term time to ease the stress of caring for a dying relative has defied a council’s gagging order by launching a parliamentary petition against her treatment…

Janice Skelcher was given a conditional discharge and ordered to pay £400 costs by magistrates in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, after she and her husband refused to pay a fine for taking their children to visit family in Australia.

Skelcher, a former emergency call handler, had been due to appear on a television programme to discuss the case, but Coventry city council obtained an injunction preventing the identification of the children, in effect silencing her.

However, Skelcher can now be identified under parliamentary privilege after John Hemming, the Liberal Democrat MP, provided details of the case, including her name, in a petition laid before the House of Commons.

“I am very angry because now I have a criminal record,” Skelcher told The Sunday Times. “The school knew the children were suffering emotionally and they still said that I was doing the wrong thing.

“It’s crazy because . . . my job is to look after my children and that includes their emotional wellbeing. They [the authorities] are not living in the real world if they think these rules can work. I would do the same if I was in the situation again.”

…Head teachers have been told to approve absences only in “exceptional circumstances” but some have interpreted the rules to ban pupils from attending weddings, funerals and even taking a break from school on the advice of a doctor.

In her petition Skelcher, who is demanding a judicial review of the regulations, asks MPs on the education select committee “to recommend . . . that greater support and flexibility [are] allowed for parents to enable them to more effectively care for their children”.

Hemming, who has collected more than 216,000 signatures for another petition against the rules, said: “By petitioning parliament, Janice cannot be stopped from talking about her case.”

…Coventry city council said it followed Department for Education guidance that allowed fines to be levied if pupils were removed without the permission of a head teacher…

It declined to explain why it had sought and obtained the injunction against Skelcher…

More at: Mum defies gag on school holiday row (subscription required)

The issues around term time holidays show no signs of going away. If you were to describe situations counting as exceptional, what would you say qualifies and what doesn’t? Or is this, ultimately, only a call that parents can make? Please share in the comments or via Twitter…

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  1. VictoriaJaquiss

    SchoolsImprove Do u live to go 2 school, or go 2 school to live? If your school is in so-called Special Measures, is a holiday better?

  2. dougjcullen

    VictoriaJaquiss SchoolsImprove I definitely live for my school. I feel it is not about me but all about the hundreds of students I teach.

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