Dad warned school absence because of coronavirus fears is truancy

PUBLISHED: 08:34 12 March 2020 | UPDATED: 14:19 12 March 2020

Joyce Frankland Academy, Newport. Picture: Saffron Photo

Joyce Frankland Academy, Newport. Picture: Saffron Photo

Saffron Photo 2016

A father has been warned that keeping his stepdaughter off school for fears about coronavirus after a school trip to Italy will be regarded as truancy.

The dad has received an email from The Joyce Frankland Academy saying they may pass her unauthorised absences to Essex County Council if she stays away.

Matthew Harman, from Newport, says some of his stepdaughter's friends at Joyce Frankland Academy travelled to southern Italy during the February half term and returned the weekend before they were due start classes again. His statements come as the whole of Italy has been put on lockdown this week, in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus.

Mr Harman's stepdaughter, in year 10, went to classes on Monday, February 24, and heard that her friends in years nine and 10, who had been on the trip, presented several symptoms.

He said his daughter spoke to one of her friends, whose symptoms were particularly bad: 'She got worse and she was so ill that her parents took her to the A&E at Addenbrooke's Hospital.

'She collapsed at the front of the hospital, her temperature was quite high.

'They discharged her and told the family to isolate her. I don't know whether the tests came back positive or negative.'

The dad says the school 'took the children on the trip when they knew there was an outbreak' and the reason he took his daughter off school is the lack of information he has been given.

He said: 'No one told us what is going on, to self isolate.

'The school sent an email out saying 'no need to panic because we went to Italy, but not where the outbreak is'.

'Now it comes to light that the pupils who were on the trip came back with high temperatures, they don't want to worry people. The attendance officer told me people are getting ill. I said, why haven't parents been notified?'

After his daughter returned to school on Monday, Mr Harman decided to keep her off school for the rest of the week.

He told the Reporter he has a five-week-old baby who hadn't been eating and had sepsis, an infection of the blood, and had been in intensive care for two weeks.

He said: 'He has health issues. We kept my stepdaughter off school because we can't afford my son to get ill because he will have an operation in two months time. The school has a duty of care.

'The attendance officer said to me: 'When you go shopping, you can bump into someone with the virus, so going to school is no different.' I told the officer: 'We have a baby and we can't afford our baby to get ill.''

His stepdaughter was off school for four days. Mr Harman said the school had been emailing the family about 'unauthorised absences'.

He said: 'All they are worried about is their attendance and statistics. I think this (keeping her away from school) is the right thing to do.

Mr Harman says he has been told that if his daughter had any more days off school, the matter will be passed to Essex County Council and the family may be fined because of unauthorised absences.

A spokesperson for Joyce Frankland Academy said: 'The academy coordinated a number of excellent trips over half-term. Regarding the trip we had to southern Italy, there were no restrictions in place and no indications that the virus was a serious public health concern for Italian authorities in that area.

'The academy has adhered to the advice from daily briefings by the Department for Education and Public Health England and will continue to do so.

'There have been no identified cases of coronavirus in our school as yet and, to our knowledge, no student or staff member has been tested for it.

'If a child is unwell, this is not categorised as 'unauthorised absence' and therefore is not reported to Essex County Council. If there were to be a case of coronavirus at our school, it would be declared immediately to Public Health England and other statutory bodies who would provide advice and guidance to ensure that we put in place all the interventions possible, to keep our community safe.'

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