A mother today told of her anger after she was threatened with court action for keeping her children off school to spend time with their terminally ill father.
Teenagers Lydia and Leah Vaughan were at the bedside of their father, Martin, 40, last week after he was taken to hospital. He is battling cancer which has spread through his body.
But their mother Nicolette, 37, was then sent a letter by Bispham High School threatening them with court action for unauthorised absences after 13-year-old Lydia’s attendance was recorded at 83.5 per cent.
The mother told The Gazette she has kept the Bispham Road school informed of her husband’s illness since he was first diagnosed back in 2010 – and then when he was given the devastating news the disease had spread to his liver and was terminal.
Now the school has apologised, saying the letter was sent out in error and acknowledge the youngster should never have been on the ‘attendance initiative’ list.
It was sent despite the school having taken on two additional pupil welfare officers to support students having any issues relating to attendance.
Mrs Vaughan, of Waverley Avenue, North Shore, said: “Martin has been battling cancer and it has been diagnosed as terminal. The school is fully aware of all this.
“On March 24 he was rushed by ambulance into hospital in absolute agony, which was disturbing and upsetting.
the girls both bravely witnessed.
“I rang the school and left a message explaining everything that had happened and I didn’t know when the girls would be back as everything was up in the air.
“Despite this I was sent a text asking where they were. I was furious.
“The school states that unless the circumstances are exceptional poor attendance is not tolerated – what is more exceptional than your father dying of cancer?
Martin, a panel beater, was diagnosed with cancer four years ago when doctors discovered a tumour the size of a golf ball behind his eye.
In 2012 he was told the tragic news the cancer had spread to his liver and was terminal.
Throughout the family say they have kept the school, which older son Caleb, 17, also attended, informed but Mrs Vaughan said she has still been contacted on a number of occasions to query absences.
The school’s acting headteacher has now apologised for what it says was a clerical error.
Deborah Hanlon-Catlow said: “I am very sorry Mrs Vaughan received this letter, which was sent out in error.
“The school is committed to helping families whose children have poor attendance, and has targeted support for a number of children.
“As part of our drive to improve attendance, letters were sent out to specific parents – unfortunately, Mrs Vaughan has received this letter as well when it did not apply to her or her family.
“As soon as we realised the mistake, the letter was rescinded and the school has apologised directly to the family for any distress caused.
“I am well aware of the difficult situation the family is facing and the school is supporting the pupils through what must be a very upsetting time.”
The school has had a troubled year after being placed in special measures by Ofsted inspectors, meaning it has to be regularly inspected after being found to be failing in key areas.
It has since brought in the additional pupil welfare officers, to support the one existing officer, to work on improving attendance and punctuality and support students.
Ofsted inspectors praised this area of the school’s work in its most recent inspection, held in February, saying they had seen “incremental signs of improvement”.
Mrs Vaughan, who works at Home Bargains, said: “Throughout the girls have had time off as different things have happened
After contacting Blackpool Council about the matter the girl’s records have been amended and the school has offered pastoral support for the teenagers.
But, the mother-of-three has told how she considers the incident unacceptable when she is trying to care for her desperately ill husband, who is being treated with morpheine for the pain.
She added this is the first time in four years that extra support or consideration for the circumstances has been offered.
She said: “Considering what they are going through, I am extremely proud of the girls and what they are achieving.
“I can’t emphasise enough how thoroughly disgusted I am with the schools complete lack of support or even empathy for my girls.”