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Rainham newlyweds fined by school for taking daughter to Cyprus wedding

PUBLISHED: 07:00 22 June 2015 | UPDATED: 10:10 22 June 2015

Melanie and Lee Cook with Jessica (second left) and family. Picture: Christoforos Lysis

Melanie and Lee Cook with Jessica (second left) and family. Picture: Christoforos Lysis

Archant

A newlywed couple have been fined for taking their daughter out of school - so she could watch them get married.

Melanie and Lee on their wedding day. Picture: Christoforos LysisMelanie and Lee on their wedding day. Picture: Christoforos Lysis

Melanie Cook and her husband Lee were told the once-in-a-lifetime event was not an exceptional circumstance by Chaffords School in Lambs Lane South, Rainham.

They were therefore resigned to paying the £120 fine (£60 per parent) so their daughter Jessica, 12, could travel to Cyprus for nine days in April.

Melanie, of East Grove, Rainham, believed it was an exceptional circumstance, as did her son Kieran’s primary school, who gave him permission to go.

“It’s her parents’ wedding,” she said. “It’s not going to happen every year – obviously she was still going to go.

“I agree attendance is important as the children’s education would majorly suffer, but as a family us getting married and doing it where we want on a day we want is important as well.”

After begrudgingly accepting the policy, her fine was mistakenly put in someone else’s name – her friend who had taken her child in Jessica’s school year on a family holiday weeks before.

But Melanie was shocked to hear the fine couldn’t be hers, as she had been granted exceptional circumstances by the school.

Melanie, who claims she was told the exceptional circumstances granted to the other family were due to the girl’s father not being able to book time off in the summer, complained about the inconsistency.

The school eventually granted Jessica a one-day absence to cover the wedding day on religious grounds, but wouldn’t budge on the rest of the holiday.

“It’s ridiculous, I can’t get my head round it,” said Melanie, who has now contacted MP Jon Cruddas and the Department for Education about the matter.

“It’s a matter of principle, I shouldn’t have to be questioning why they’ve let somebody else go, it should be the same rule for everybody.”

Gary Pratt, headteacher of Chaffords, said the school did not comment on individual cases.

He added: “There are standard legal procedures relating to non-attendance at school.

“By law, we have to pass information about an individual student’s attendance to the Education Welfare Service who then take appropriate action.

“The school is strongly of the belief that good attendance at school leads to good achievement.”

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