Preston pupil threatened with prom ban for going to term-time family wedding

A 15-year-old pupil has been warned he will be banned from his school prom next year if he flies out to the Mediterranean for a family wedding during term time.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 16th July 2018, 6:32 am
Updated Monday, 16th July 2018, 5:52 pm
Julie McAvoy has pleaded with the headteacher and governors at Our Ladys Catholic High School in Preston to lift the threat
Julie McAvoy has pleaded with the headteacher and governors at Our Ladys Catholic High School in Preston to lift the threat

Year 10 student Lewis Atkinson also faces being barred from his form’s GCSE awards ceremony in July 2019 if he takes two weeks out in October to see his aunt get married in Crete.

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Now mum Julie McAvoy has pleaded with the headteacher and governors at Our Lady’s Catholic High School in Preston to lift the threat claiming “it’s harsh and unjustified.”

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Julie McAvoy has pleaded with the headteacher and governors at Our Ladys Catholic High School in Preston to lift the threat

“They are punishing Lewis for something that isn’t his fault,” said Julie at home in Lea. “I booked the trip, not him.

“All the family is going and we can’t leave him home alone.”

Lewis will fall foul of a strict school rule which allows only pupils with no unauthorised absence during Year 11 to attend the summer leavers’ ball.

As his trip means he misses 10 days of schooling in his GCSE year – not the four Our Lady’s allows for family weddings abroad – he will automatically be excluded from the event.

His parents will also face a statutory fine of £60 each for taking him out of school outside the recognised holiday periods.

“I have no problem with the local authority fine, I understand that,” said Julie. “But to ban him from his prom – the biggest event of a pupil’s school life – is cruel beyond words.

“My sister is getting married and I am a bridesmaid. I was under the impression we all had to be in Crete for eight days before the ceremony. But after I’d booked the trip I found out it was only the bride and groom who needed to be there for that long.

“I’ve tried to change things with Thomas Cook, but I can’t do it. So it’s my fault, not Lewis’. He’s innocent and yet he’s being punished severely for something that is out of his hands.

“I’ve asked the school to show a bit of mercy, but they’re sticking to their guns. He won’t be allowed to go to the prom, or the presentation, and that’s that.”

Headteacher Nigel Ranson declined to comment on individual cases, but said the school’s prom policy was well-known to parents and pupils alike.

“We have a long-standing system which is all about fairness and encouraging outstanding attendance,” he told the Post.

“One of the criteria to attend our leavers’ ball is you have to have no unauthorised absence during Year 11. That is applied to all pupils without exception.

“We have always looked compassionately in certain situations like bereavement, funerals and weddings of close family members. We will authorise sufficient time to attend those, including travel.

“But if someone wants to have extended time to have a holiday then that component wouldn’t be authorised.

“It would be wrong to suggest we don’t approve absence for, say, a family wedding. If that was in Preston that would be a day, if it was out of the area like London it might be two days. And it would be four days if abroad.

“I have to maintain consistency and fairness. It was in our newsletter last July.

“We write to all parents in Year 10 to explain to them the implications of any unauthorised absences in Year 11. I also speak to every pupil because we want them all to attend the ball.”