Parents hit back after school absences fine

Biddulph town sign.

A Biddulph couple have said they were “let down by the system” after being fined more than £1,000 for their daughter’s school absences, despite her struggle with anxiety.

Michelle Turnock, (46), said that 14-year-old daughter Florence had had to spend time at home rather than at Biddulph High School because her “anxiety is worse than ever”.

She argued that the family should not have been penalised as a result of something that is nobody’s fault.

At the beginning of the month, Mrs Turnock and her husband Stephen were fined £558 each by Staffordshire Magistrates’ Court for the absences over two periods of time – between 21st and 25th September, and 3rd and 30th November last year.

They have since been in touch with a solicitor about getting the fines overturned.

Prior to the court case, the family had sought help from their GP for Florence’s condition, but were told that because of her age she could not be prescribed anti-anxiety medication until she was seen by a Child And Adolescent Mental Health Services specialist. They have been on a waiting list for 16 months.

More recently, the school has offered counselling from its nurse, but this has not yet happened.

Mrs Turnock told the Chronicle: “Florence is not off school because she is out playing truant with friends and her parents don’t care, she is off because she physically cannot go in. She has had anxiety for about two years.

“We are a normal, average family but we are just struggling at the moment with getting her into school. Her anxiety is worse than ever. At times she can’t breathe, and it is not her fault.”

Florence currently attends one-to-one lessons for a couple of hours each day, but Mrs Turnock said she expected her daughter will soon be required to return to classes full-time, which is something she “physically will not be able to do”.

She also said that the system should be more holistic and take into account individual cases like her daughter’s.

rs Turnock added: “We have been trying to get help for more than a year. The GP said it’s just a waiting game because of everything that has been going on with the pandemic, so in the meantime I asked if there was a way we could speak to a social worker or something like that.

“The school rang about a month ago and said we could see the school nurse for some counselling, because I have been waiting for so long. That has not happened yet, but we were only told about it a few weeks ago.”

The Chronicle asked Biddulph High School why the family’s case was referred to the court if teachers were aware of Florence’s anxiety issues but had received no response before deadline yesterday (Wednesday).