A MOTHER was fined for keeping her sick child home from school.

Paula Bedford’s daughter Belle, 13, was home from Portslade Aldridge Community Academy (PACA) for seven days over two weeks in December.

Ms Bedford said she was shocked when a £60 fixed penalty notice from Brighton and Hove City Council’s enforcement office arrived in the post.

Ms Bedford said Belle had very good grades and had never missed school for holidays or playing truant, but she was told she would have to provide evidence that she had been sick - such as a doctor’s certificate or prescription - to avoid the fine.

She said: “It shouldn’t be the same punishment for playing truant or going on holiday as it is for being ill.

“I don’t understand why parents are being put in that situation.

“I have tried explaining that Belle has very good grades and likes going to school.

“On the days she was ill I reported her sick - and they could have told me then that I’d need proof. I would have insisted she went to the doctor, but I didn’t think it was necessary.

“It turns out they expect everyone to have read the fine print of the Education Act. I have gone from shock to anger over this.

“I don’t expect most parents realise they need proof to show their child is ill.

“I feel it is a sad situation and abuse of power and human rights to treat people like this as if they have committed a crime.”

Ms Bedford said she would refuse to pay the fine as a matter of principle and fight her case in court if needed.

In December, the school’s headteacher Mark Poston sent a letter to parents urging them to send children in to class even if unsure whether they were well enough.

He said: “Please can I ask that you send you child in with a dated note that they can give to the pastoral team to say that you are concerned about you child’s health and that if they feel unwell during the day for us to call you.”

A spokesman for the council said: “Parents who fail to give their child’s school clear evidence (medical or otherwise) authorising school absence may run the risk of being fined for the non-attendance of their child.

“This is in line with national guidance. We only issue fines when a school makes a referral to us due to absence or absences that have not been authorised by the school.”

A spokesman for PACA said: "The academy fully backs the city-wide Miss School Miss Out campaign, which emphasises how attendance at school is important for every pupil. The school has taken great steps to support the increase of attendance of students, as we understand how important good school attendance is to the wellbeing of a young person. 

"It is not appropriate to discuss an individual student’s circumstances in public, but we can confirm that the school has acted in accordance with the local authority guidance. We have made every effort to work with Mrs Bedford to help improve her daughter’s attendance at school before referring on to the Council."