Couple contests school fine after gold medal-winning son’s absence
PUBLISHED: 10:48 06 October 2017 | UPDATED: 17:37 06 October 2017
Archant © 2017
A Lowestoft couple have refused to pay a £60 per parent fine imposed by a school after taking their gold medal-winning son to compete at a world martial arts championships in Florida.
However, Roman Hill Primary School maintains that Kevin and Emily Gunton were authorised to take seven-year-old Oliver out of school for the duration of the World Martial Arts Games, but not for any longer than was necessary.
Both Oliver and his father competed at the Orlando games from Thursday, September 7 until Sunday, September 10, with the youngster taking gold in the self-defence category.
Roman Hill were happy to authorise Oliver’s absence for the competition’s entirety, as well as for the Monday after its completion to give the family leeway to fly home, but the Guntons argued that travelling halfway across the world for an international games warranted more time.
“We thought the time they offered was ridiculous,” said Mr Gunton.
“In a meeting with the headteacher, we highlighted that it was a special circumstance and that he’s never had to miss any school before, but she said they couldn’t give us special treatment.”
“Our argument is that schools should be encouraging achievements like this; they should be happy he’s representing our country.”
In the case of Oliver’s unauthorised absence, Roman Hill had 14 days to send confirmation of the fine to his parents once their child returned to school.
The couple then have the option to pay the £120 fine or have the case referred to the school’s educational welfare officer.
“We were away for 11 days and the day after we got back the kids were exhausted - if Oliver had gone to school, he’d have been in no fit state to learn,” added Mrs Gunton.
“We’re not going to pay the fine because this really was a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Had it simply been a holiday we’d have paid it.”
Speaking on behalf of Roman Hill, chairman of governors Michael Cadman said: “Oliver has done very well, but we have to conform with legal requirements and the headteacher has to follow school policy to the letter.
“We make parents aware of our fines policy and, when they stick to the authorised period of time, no fine is imposed.”