Parents who were taken to court and fined after removing their 10-year-old daughter from school for 13 days during the Covid pandemic to home school her so they could 'save their family business' have spoken out about the incident and say they feel 'criminalised'.

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 of year was not an option.

The couple were fined by Amalie's school, Roughlee Primary, but refused to pay the penalty as they believed they had followed the correct procedures after they wrote to the school requesting a leave of absence, stating what they consdiered were valid reasons.

Lancashire County Council pursued the fine however, and the matter was taken to court, and upon the advice of their solicitors, the Moffatt's changed their not guilty plea to guilty at the last minute, which stopped the case from going to trial.

Lancashire Telegraph: Amalie and Ryan Moffatt in their butchers in Nelson

They were fined £150 each by magistrates, despite mitigation for an absolute discharge.

Now, Mrs Moffatt has spoken of her upset at being 'criminalised for protecting our family'.

She said: "We’re feeling upset. We have been punished for protecting our livelihood and consequently for protecting the wellbeing of our children during a global pandemic.

"We wouldn’t have taken them out of school if we felt we had a choice.

"We couldn’t win. We would have had to close our business (as per government instruction) if anyone one of us had caught Covid, and the local authority have punished us for taking steps to prevent such a closure.

Parents lose court battle after home-schooling daughter to help save family business from Covid

"We had hoped to fight this all of the way, but we were advised that there is simply no defence in law for the action we took, and we’ve learnt that the hard way.

"We had hoped that the prosecution would drop the case when they learnt how detrimental a shop close would have been for Amalie, but it is now clear that that was never going to happen."

Mrs Moffatt said the school, local authority and local magistrates have shown 'zero sympathy for our situation and, in our minds, they didn’t consider the best interests of our child', seeing as Amalie didn't have have any previous issues with attendance.

She went on: "These were unprecedented times. In our view, the prosecution hasn’t achieved anything but bad feeling.

"Fines are just a revenue raising exercise with zero benefit to the children involved.

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

"We were honest about our reasons for taking Amalie out of school. In hindsight, we would have been better off lying and saying she had Covid symptoms.

"We didn’t pay the fines because we didn’t think our leave of absence request had been judged fairly.

Lancashire Telegraph: Nicholson's butchers in Nelson, which is owned by the Moffatt's

"The decision to refuse leave was based on four lines on a form. The headteacher didn’t meet with us to discuss our request as per the LCC leave of absence request form.

"We are now criminals for one act of parenting but not the other (our eldest child’s school didn’t have an issue with our decision).

"We know lots of parents took their children out of school in December and didn’t receive any form of punishment. The system doesn't treat parents fairly.

"We have been criminalised for protecting our family."

County Councillor Jayne Rear, cabinet member for education and skills on Lancashire County Council said making sure children receive a good education was her 'highest priority'

She commented: "It would be inappropriate for me to comment on individual cases.

"However, making sure that all young people receive a good education is my highest priority and the evidence shows that attainment is linked to attendance.

"If children miss out on school they miss out on learning.

"The decision to authorise absence or not rests with the headteacher of the particular school and penalty notices are an enforcement option that are available to local authorities, if requested by schools.

Lancashire Telegraph: Roughlee primary school

"It is the court that decides on whether a fine should be issued, and the level of that fine, not the local authority.

"The court is also able to order an absolute discharge regarding any individual case.

"We always encourage schools to work closely with parents to reduce unauthorised absences and 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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