Two days off school for a TV commercial? Sorry, no...

Nine-year-old Oliver McGonigle won an acting role in a television advert but Holy Family Catholic Primary School will not give him the 2 days off required for filming
Nine-year-old Oliver McGonigle won an acting role in a television advert but Holy Family Catholic Primary School will not give him the 2 days off required for filming
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A young actor who was cast in a TV role was left upset when his school refused to give him two days off he wanted for filming.

Aspiring actor Oliver McGonigle, nine, won a starring role in a television commercial ahead of other hopeful children after he auditioned via a video call on Sunday.

Holy Family Catholice Primary School. Pic from Google maps

Holy Family Catholice Primary School. Pic from Google maps

The pharmaceutical company behind the advert was so impressed with his performance that they offered him the role on the very same day.

But Oliver, who hopes someday to star on the silver screen, was scuppered when his school, Holy Family RC Primary on Seacrest Avenue, North Shore, refused to grant him two days off to film the commercial at a London studio – meaning the role was given to another child.

His mum Nicole, 41, said: “He cried himself to sleep when he found out. He was so happy and they’ve taken that away.”

Today headteacher Helen Moreton defended the school’s decision to keep Oliver in the classroom.

She said: “The school has to follow the law that requires pupils to be in school every school day unless they are ill or have a medical appointment.

“Evidence proves that good pupil attendance is directly related to a child’s best chance of success in life. “

Oliver, who attends Pauline Clark Academy acting school and A1 Dance Academy, has past experience working as a wedding wear model and an understudy for advertisements with car company Ford.

But support worker Nicole, who lives in North Shore, says he is now struggling to progress in his acting career because he cannot attend casting calls – and that he hadto turn down a role in this year’s performance of Great Expectations at the Winter Gardens as a result of school commitments.

All children who perform on stage or in television must have a licence from their local authority, which can only be granted if it is satisfied that the child’s education will not suffer as a result.

Blackpool Council confirmed that the casting agency had not applied for a licence in this case.

Nicole said: “It makes me feel very sad because I have put a lot into supporting Oliver in what he wants to do.

“Oliver is part of the school choir and teachers take him out of lessons to practice for that.”

She added that she would understand the school’s firm stance if her son was falling behind – but insisted that he performed well at school, and that his attendance record for the previous year was 95 per cent.

She said: “He’s not behind at school and he’s not badly behaved.

“He does all his homework and keeps busy doing worksheets during the holidays.

“He only had a few days off last year when he was in hospital with a head injury.”

Nicole has now applied to move Oliver to Moor Park Primary in Bispham from next year.

WHAT DOES THE SCHOOL SAY?

Holy Family’s attendance policy states that parents should avoid taking children out of lessons during ‘the first few weeks in September when children are settling into a new class’.

Headteacher Helen Moreton said: “Holy Family School has always endeavoured to support pupils with modelling and acting opportunities.

“School also needs to ensure that a pupil’s education doesn’t suffer and that pupils are safeguarded on any assignments.

“In fact, a former pupil, who currently has a key role in the soap Emmerdale, successfully started his acting career while a pupil at Holy Family.

“We worked with his casting agency to ensure that his education didn’t suffer while he was filming. We have not received a licence for this work and as such cannot be satisfied with letting the child miss school to carry out the work. The school is also constrained by government laws which state that absence, other than for sickness or medical appointments, can only be authorised for ‘exceptional circumstances’.

“The latest Department of Education report shows for every half school day missed, the chance of a child achieving national expectations in reading and maths is reduced.

“Holy Family works closely with parents and the council to support children being in school so that disruption to learning is kept to the minimum and all children can achieve the best that they can.

“Families are expected to take holidays out of term time during the 13 weeks a year that school is closed.”

WHAT DOES HIS AGENT SAY?

Michelle Hurne, of Little Allstars casting and modelling agency, said: “I think it’s very unfair. It’s not like he’s asked for a day off to go to the Pleasure Beach - it’s educational and helping him further his career. He’s learning about how to work with the cameras and how to be a real actor and it’s a shame that the school can’t be supportive of that.

“I think Oliver has a very big future ahead of him. He’s got a good look, takes direction well, he’s very well behaved and he absolutely loves what he’s doing.”

Nicole has now applied to move Oliver to Moor Park Primary in Bispham from next year.