So, here I am! Obviously not in prison but still feeling somewhat drained of every emotion in my body.
Please read my last post which will explain in more detail my reasons for writing this.
Basically, I was taken to court for my daughters school attendance which was said to be 80% (is now 95%). This wasn’t the first time! I’ve experienced this before as my last post explains I’ve been twice before. Having a child with special educational needs and Aspergers who refuses to attend school and when he does, he finds himself excluded as his needs can not be met, doesn’t seem to fall into the statutory requirements of “Special circumstances” and both times I was fined. As explained in yesterday’s post I was going to court this time for Alice. To be honest I was fuming as she is a child who has missed so much school in the past due to late nights (having a big brother who kicks of throughout the night isn’t easy) as well being made late when little man required all my attention of a morning only to refuse to leave the house. There are many other reasons as well as different parts that make up this story but as mentioned you can read yesterday’s post, I’m just to emotionally drained to go into it again today.
Well, Alice’s attendance went right up as little man started attending an independent special school and got transport half an hour earlier than Alice needed to leave. I also allowed her that bit of independence when allowing her to walk the two minutes to get to school alone.
Sadly during October to the end of Feburay Alice got every bug going. She also had a bad urine tact infection that made her attendance fall to 80%
Letters were written by myself and passed to the school. I even rang and emailed to cover my own backside. The current receptionist sent me back home with Alice on at least four occasions when I turned up with her reporting she had been sick during the night but felt well enough to attend (school policy I’m told). So can you imagine my horror at discovering the school and that of the attendance and welfare officer (AWO) were claiming these absences were actually unauthorised and I’d needed sick notes! The twist here was I’d signed a consent form which allowed the school to contact my doctors as they don’t like to write sick notes for schools.
I was fuming that I was going to court especially given the fact of our history and the reasons behind the erratic attendance of my son.
I went to look through my daughters school records and found most of the evidence needed to prove I’d been communicating. The rest just seemed to be amiss somewhere!
I defended my own case. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust a solicitor to do it better I just didn’t have the time required to get one. I was nervous but filled with anger, it’s the latter that keep me going.
If I was found guilty of the charge I was up for s444 (1A) then it was a very high fine or prison sentence I would be looking at receiving. Being up twice before it would seem the LEA wanted the latter, given they had made the point known that they didn’t think any of the other options were suitable for me (you know given I’m not a good “communicator” and all that)!
I had gotten to the point where I just felt victimised by my daughters school and that of the LEA. I had battled them both for years and won a discrimination case against them. I guess I just assumed that given little man had now left to attend a special school we could forget it and move on. God I was trying to lose any bitterness (and I had a lot to lose, why couldn’t they?)
I was most angry by the fact that my daughter had been sent home yet the register stated no reason was given for her absence. This was for more than 4 occasions. I was also fuming that the attendance print out that was sent to the court differed from the print out I had received from reception. This one had the reasons I had given for my daughters absence printed underneath each absence (you know them reasons I hadn’t given)!
The prosecutor who I understand was just doing her job was something of a bitch which I guess makes her ideal for the role. During the hearing I mentioned that I had won a discrimination case and how my child has SEN and Aspergers, I wanted it noted that the school seemed to be acting bitter towards me. The prosecutor just rolled her eyes and for a minute I felt like shaking the ignorance out of her. I just about held it together!
One thing that shocked me was they had a witness. This wasn’t made known to me and I felt cheated when she gave evidence. She was said to be in a Senior position within the LEA’s attendance and welfare departments.
I hadn’t received a letter about the pre court meeting which was organised by this women (someone I have never met) as soon as they wrote telling me I hadn’t bothered to show and was going to court I called her right up. She wasn’t there so I left a message explaining I never got the letter and could she call me back.
Of course she didn’t and I called my AWO who had prised Alice’s attendance and promised to find out why the receptionist wasn’t logging the reasons behind the absences including the times she was sent home. We spoke for 36 minutes but it would seem nothing was documented for court. Once I received the court summons I phoned her again daily… I’ve been ignored for months!
Now this witness was telling the court how I left a message saying I’d forgot about the meeting. My blood was boiling.
I had questions for her but she just answered in a way that displayed ignorance and the lies continued.
The court were a tad shocked when I produced the letters I had written to the school, ones I had taken from my daughters records. They also wanted to know why they hadn’t been given the attendance record that I had obtained the day before from the school. Of course they save some other crap excuse.
I really did just about hold it together! Having someone ask you if you understand how important it is for your child to receive an education, especially when you do what I do is pretty frustrating. After all I really can not help it if my daughter is sick can I?
When the magistrates stepped out to make a decision I had to step out and use the toilet. I couldn’t let them see my tears and I was at the very point of letting them come out. When I returned I discovered the magistrates were already back… That didn’t take long!
So as to remind you, here’s what I was up against…
Failure to secure regular attendance without reasonable justification (s444(1A) of the Education Act 1996)
This is used where the LA thinks the parent knows that the child is not going to school but is not trying to do anything about it. This is a more serious offence than s444 (1) because the parent is accused of not taking responsibility for the situation. Parents found guilty of this offence can be fined up to £2,500 or sent to prison for up to 3 months.
I was told to stand to hear my fate.
In my head I knew I’d be handed another blow of injustice despite my hard work of gathering visual evidence.
One of the three magistrates declared that I was NOT GUILTY of s444(1A) she said their was clearly some confusion based over the communications made by myself (really, I’d call it lies rather than confusion)!
However here’s the twist….
I was still found GUILTY for s444(1) the less serious charge.
(1) Failure to secure regular attendance of a child (s 444 (1) of the Education Act 1996)
This is used where a child is absent without permission and is without suitable alternative education. Parents found guilty of this can be fined up to £1,000.
So because the school had chosen to not authorise ALL of my daughters time off I had to be found guilty of this charge because it’s the law and the law is shit.
I didn’t receive a fine, a parenting order or anything of this kind. Instead I was given a one year discharge. This means if I come back within a year I’ll be trailed for the same case too. This was said to be their way of not punishing me!
Yet… I felt patronised as the magistrates continuously asked me if I understood while telling me that she didn’t want to see me back there. I had to ask them if they thought it made sense that I would fight the battles I have fought to ensure my eldest son an education only to not bother ensure my daughter had one too?
Now my fear is the school will never authorise an absence when my daughter is sick… Come on they don’t even authorise the ones where she has been sent home.
For this reason and others I’m yet to write about, I’ve decided that in order for this not to happen again I’ll be looking into another school for my daughter to attend!
I will also be putting in a formal complaint against the school for not recording her absences in the way they should have done (mainly sending her home and stating no reason was given for her absence).
Lastly it would seem that if your child’s school decide to not authorise an absence and you go to court then unless you have a medical note from your doctor for every absence then you will be found guilty of s444(1) which is the less serious charge.
I disagree that this should be the case so I’m getting ready for some serious campaigning!