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Burnley mum refused time off school for kids as she has heart surgery

emma payne heart surgery 1

Published by Laura Pratt at 11:45am 13th March 2019

A Burnley mum says she can't believe her children's primary school has refused her request for time off, as she has life saving heart surgery.

Emma Payne requested her two daughters got four days off from St Augustine's RC Primary School - but only got two approved.

She's in Newcastle next month having heart surgery for an issue she's had all her life.

A specialist surgeon is coming up from London for just two days to see Emma.

Her husband, parents and daughters want to come up for the week to make sure she's OK - and there's a risk the surgery could become even more evasive.

emma payne heart surgery 3
Emma with her parents

But the school refused her request - saying the time off is too close to her daughter's SATs exams in May.

Emma tells 2BR how she felt when she opened the letter:

"I was absolutely gutted, it just blew me away. A piece of paper I'd written about my heart surgery on, they said they couldn't authorise it because of SATs.

"I can't put it into words, how angry it makes me that they can't take that as a proper circumstance. We're not sneaking off on a holiday or pretending the kids are sick for a cheap holiday - I'm having heart surgery.

"Everything I've done - even having open heart surgery - I've never taken my kids out of school, I've played by the rules. But I can't this time".

emma payne heart surgery 2
Emma with husband Mark

Sinead Colbeck, headteacher at St. Augustine's RC Primary School, Burnley, said:

"We cannot comment on individual cases.

"Even though we work in line with government guidelines which make it clear that absence can only be authorised in exceptional circumstances, we speak with the families concerned each time to make sure that the reasons are totally understood so that every decision is appropriate.

"We give careful consideration to each request and review on an ongoing basis."

County Councillor Susie Charles, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Schools, said:

"It would be inappropriate to comment on individual cases however schools have a very clear policy, based on government guidance, regarding the authorisation of leave.

"The decision to authorise absence or not rests with the headteacher of the particular school. Schools work closely with parents to understand the reasons for the request. Each request is always taken on its merits.

"School attendance is given high priority in Lancashire schools and rightly so, as every day counts in each pupil's education.

"However our aim throughout is not to punish parents but to ensure that children and young people attend school and receive a good education."

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