School ‘sorry’ over funeral day blunder

Staff from Palatine school visited the Johnson family on the day of a funeral to query a pupil's absence.  Pictured is pupil Courtney Johnson with dad Alan Johnson and mum Shelly Johnson.
Staff from Palatine school visited the Johnson family on the day of a funeral to query a pupil's absence. Pictured is pupil Courtney Johnson with dad Alan Johnson and mum Shelly Johnson.
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Secondary school bosses today apologised after staff turned up on the doorstep of a grieving family on the day of a funeral, demanding to know why a pupil was not in class.

Distraught father Alan Johnson was preparing to bury his mother Frances, who died on November 11, when staff from his daughter’s school knocked on the door.

He had already told Palatine Sports College that 13-year-old Courtney would be missing a day to attend her grandmother’s funeral on November 19.

But the school has admitted the message was not relayed to attendance teams.

Today, the family told of their upset at being quizzed over the Year Nine pupil’s absence just half an hour before the funeral of Frances Johnson, who died aged 84.

Now the school has issued an apology for any distress caused by the error, and explained pupils’ attendance and attainment are carefully monitored.

Mr Johnson, 63, said: “Half an hour before the hearse pulled up, two people turned up from the attendance unit asking where she was.

“It was half an hour before I said goodbye to my mother, I was fuming. It’s not good enough. There should have been notes left to say not to come round on the day of a funeral. It’s not what you expect to happen. I just broke down.”

The school, on St Annes Road, has apologised for the error and said it intends to stop such an incident happening again.

Headteacher Chris Powell said: “The school has recognised the unfortunate circumstances surrounding this case and has apologised to the parent concerned.

“It was never the intention of the school to cause further distress to the family during this upsetting time.”

The school has explained staff visited the family in accordance with its attendance policy.

Mr Johnson said his daughter had missed some school earlier in the year, including a week in October which led to attendance officers from the visiting their home.

He said that non-attendance was because his daughter was not well, but Courtney had attended school regularly since.

Mr Johnson, of Wetherby Avenue, South Shore, said: “She has been off before, but most of the time that’s sickness.

“I know her attendance was low at the start of the year but she was working it up.

“I agree with the attendance thing, but I don’t know why the attendance teams were involved this time.”

Mr Powell added: “The school places a high value on good student attendance and has significantly improved levels since September.

“High levels of attendance are linked to good student outcomes, that remains our number one priority.

“Notwithstanding this, in this particular instance we appreciate that a mistake was made, we will reflect upon our current protocols and ensure that a similar incident doesn’t occur again.”

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