Parents who took their 10-year-old daughter out of school for 13 days during the Covid pandemic to home school her so they could 'save their family business' have been fined £150 each by the courts after failing to pay the absence penalty issued to them by Lancashire County Council.

Faye and Ryan Moffat, who run Nicholson's Butchers in Nelson, said they had no choice but to take, Amalie, 10, out of the classroom before Christmas, because the risk of catching Covid and having to close the shop at the busiest time was not an option.

Mrs Moffat, who has another daughter, Isobelle, and is also a level four teaching assistant, said she made the decision as she and her husband could not risk one of their daughters being sent home to self-isolate, as this would mean the whole family would need to remain at home for 10 days, forcing them to close their shop.

At a hearing in Burnley Magistrates Court in Thursday, Mr and Mrs Moffatt were ordered to pay a £56 fine each, plus a victim surcharge of £34 each, as well as £60 costs as requested by Lancashire County Council.

Lancashire Telegraph: Nicholson\'s Butchers Ltd in Nelson

Despite strong mitigation from defence solicitor Tom Edwards, who told magistrates that their daughter's school attendance over the last four years was exceptional, and stood at around 99 per cent; and despite explaining that the Moffatt's did not take Amelie out of the classroom for selfish reasons, had asked permission from the school, and were prepared to home school their child, magistrates still deemed it necessary to impose a fine on the couple.

Parents fined for home-schooling daughter to help save business from Covid

Mr Edwards said: "You have a couple who made a decision which was against a difficult backdrop of circumstances.

"They were in a position where they would have been faced with surplus stock that couldn't have been sold, and this would have seriously impacted their livelihoods, and in turn affected their children - they were very much between a rock and a hard place.

"The parenting they exercised and the diligence they showed in dealing with a very difficult situation shows this is a child who clearly wouldn't suffer from being at home.

"They tried to ask permission from the school and their reasons were not selfish.

"This is an exceptional case and both Mr and Mrs Moffatt are of good character. It's one of those cases where we consider absolute discharge would be the appropriate action."

The couple had originally pleaded not guilty to being the parent of a child of compulsory school age registered at a school who failed to attend regularly, but changed their plea to guilty on Thursday.

Magistrates said the Moffatt's situation was a 'sad case' and accepted they acted out of 'genuine concern for their family's welfare', however they ruled the absence from school was 'unauthorised and therefore against the law', and fined the couple £150 each.

Speaking in March, Mrs Moffatt said: "We are the only people who work in the butchers, and if Amalie or Isobelle had been told to self-isolate because a child in their bubble had tested positive for Covid, we would have lost everything.

"We would have been forced to close, just before Christmas, when it was our busiest time, busier than the previous year, and we would have suffered unimaginable financial losses, not to mention all the people we would've had to let down for the Christmas dinners.

Lancashire Telegraph: Roughlee Primary School

"We don't have any other source of income. We could not take that risk. Losing the money from the Christmas trade, which also sets us up for January, would have had a bigger impact on the children than them missing two weeks of school.

"And I was more than prepared to home school them, as I am a qualified TA."

Mrs Moffat said she had wanted to go about the absences in the correct way, and had filled out an absence request form for youngest daughter, Amalie, who attends Roughlee Primary School in Roughlee, but it was rejected by the school; and was left shocked when she received two £60 fines - one for her and one for Mr Moffat.

She added: "That was the biggest insult. We were trying to save our livelihoods and I feel like we've been made an example of.

"We refused to pay the fines. If we had been on holiday then fair enough, but I was home schooling them both.

"They are both exceptional children, they love school, are bright, and excel in all subjects."

In March, a spokesperson for Lancashire County Council said: "Any decision to authorise absences are taken by individual headteachers, rather the county council. We are unable to comment on specific cases.

"Where a parent fails to send their child to school regularly, schools can request that the county council issues a penalty notice.

"We encourage schools to work with parents to reduce unauthorised absence, so that children and young people attend school and access their education."

At the time, headteacher of Roughlee CofE Primary School, Mark Elliott, said: "Our key priority at the moment is to ensure that pupils' education can continue in school, and we've worked hard to make our school as safe as we can for our pupils, parents and staff.

"We've also worked with parents to put additional measures in place, based on particular personal circumstances.

"We remind all of our parents and pupils to follow the rules and guidelines when on the school site regularly, for the safety and wellbeing of everyone.

"It wouldn't be appropriate for us to comment however on individual circumstances and situations."

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