Mum-of-four fined £788 for taking kids out of school for holiday to celebrate her breast cancer recovery
18th July 2019

A MUM who took her four kids on holiday to celebrate her cancer recovery was fined £788 for taking them out of school.

Despite all the family had been through, Katie McDermott, 36, was told her recovery was not considered "exceptional circumstances".

The NHS worker went through 18 weeks of chemotherapy and had a double mastectomy after finding a lump in her breast in November 2017.

Katie, from Lancaster, Lancs., said her children had been incredibly strong during her illness and the holiday was meant to be about spending quality time together after she was given the all clear.

She said: "The kids have been so good throughout everything, it was really difficult but they kept going.

"They have always gone into school and done their work without any problems at all.

"The school have said they were model students and that we should be proud of them.

"I really feel like they deserved this trip after everything they have been through.


"The way we have been treated is really upsetting."

In October Katie applied to take her sons Joseph, 14, and Oliver, 12, out of Central Lancaster High School for a well-earned six-day trip to Tenerife.

Their five-year-old daughter Ava was given permission for holiday leave from her primary school without a problem and their youngest Ella, four, is still at nursery.

But the boys' school didn't respond until two days before they were due to fly out in December, leaving it much too late to cancel.

Katie's husband Darren, 40, said they expected a reply the same week, which would have given them enough time to rearrange their trip.


Without special permission from the head teacher, you could be fined for taking your kids out of school on holiday.

Your local council can issue each parent a fine of £60, which rises to £120 each if you don't pay in 21 days.

If the fine isn't paid in 28 days, you could be prosecuted for your child's absence.

To take your child out of school for holidays, an application to the head teacher needs to be made in advance.

It's then up to the head teacher to grant the child leave from their lessons, but is usually only allowed in exceptional circumstances.

The plumber said: "We are in a financial struggle after Katie's treatment but it's not the fine I am bothered about, it's about how we have been portrayed as not really caring, which is totally untrue.

"There just seems to be no consistency, we know of lots of people who have been authorised for holidays."

On their return they received a letter from the local authority, which passed the case on to Lancaster Magistrates' Court, and a fine was issued.

After appealing the decision, last month Katie and Darren were fined a total of £788 for taking their children out of school without permission.

The holiday had been paid for by friends and family who hosted a fundraising event and donated the money towards a trip abroad.

The term-time dates were chosen by the family due to price constraints.

Darren said he spoke to the local authority, which confirmed it should have taken a few days for the school to respond to a holiday request.

The letter, written by the school's attendance officer and sent home with Joseph, actually arrived seven weeks later on November 29.

It said: "Parents may request a leave of absence in term time but this can only be authorised in exceptional circumstances.

"I have discussed your request with the headteacher who does not feel this request is exceptional.

"While sympathetic to your circumstances we are unable to set a precedent by authorising leave during term- time."

Nicola Hall, head teacher at Central Lancaster High School, said: "As a school we empathise with the wide range of sensitive issues which require compassion and consideration in all of our families.

"In accordance with regulations imposed by the government, the school has adopted a policy not to authorise term-time family holidays.

"We recognise the importance of children being consistently in school to access their whole curriculum offer.

"We hope all parents understand the limitations placed on schools in granting leave."

Katie and Darren have been invited into school to speak to Mrs Hall.

Parents can be fined for taking their kids out of school during term-time unless they have special permission from the head teacher.

Fines can be £60 per child, which rises to £120 if not paid within 21 days, but if it still isn't paid after 28 days you could be prosecuted.

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