A FATHER who is clinically vulnerable to coronavirus was fined £240 for taking his daughter out of school for “life or death” reasons.

Steven Etheridge, who has Type 1 diabetes, decided to remove his six-year-old daughter from Loxwood Primary School near Chichester after “several” cases were confirmed among pupils.

The 44-year-old from Loxwood said: “There was a minimum of two cases confirmed in the year groups above my daughter’s year, but we were never told how many – they just said ‘several’. It could have been 30.

“Those pupils were taken out to isolate for two weeks but their siblings in other classes continued to go into school, which made no sense whatsoever.”

Steven said he has first hand knowledge of how coronavirus could impact on his health after a friend with the same condition caught the virus.

He said: “My friend Chris is also a type 1 diabetic and he’s now living in a nursing home after he caught Covid-19. He has suffered three heart attacks and has lost about 95 per cent of his eyesight.

“Knowing the devastation this virus causes and seeing what it can do to a type 1 diabetic of a similar age, we requested permission to take our daughter out of school and explained what had happened to my friend.

“But it went down like a ton on bricks. The headteacher was more worried about the school attendance records.

“There was no sympathy or compassion.”

Steven chose to home-school his daughter for ten days from November 13 and was issued with a £60 fine through West Sussex County Council, which has now been increased to £240.

The wedding photographer, who has seen his work grind to a halt this year as a result of the pandemic, is raising money through a GoFundMe page for the costs of fighting his case in court.

Steven said: “My wife was made redundant in November and I’m on benefits as most of my clients have postponed weddings until next year.

“If we lose our case we’ll have to pay a lot more than £240.

“It’s not like we were taking our daughter out of school for a holiday.

“Can you imagine bringing home a virus as a six-year-old, and then not having a dad because of something you could not control?

“We were trying to do our best to protect our family.”

Government guidance states that local authorities can use legal powers to issue fines if a child is missing from school “without a good reason”. In extreme cases parents could face a £2,500 fine or be jailed for three months for refusing to pay.

A spokesman for the Department for Education recently said schools should work with families to ensure children are attending full time and fines should only be used “as a last resort and where there is no valid reason for absence”.

Polly Kitson, headteacher at Loxwood Primary School, said the school followed advice from the Department for Education Helpline in regard to which pupils and staff needed to self-isolate.

She said: “As this child was not part of a bubble required to self-isolate, we advised the family the expectation was that all other children should attend school.

“Following the government’s clear guidance and expectation on school attendance, the resulting absence from school was not authorised. This position was supported by the local authority.”

A spokesman for West Sussex County council said: “The school has followed the Department for Education guidance in their response to positive cases and their expectation and actions in regard to school attendance and unauthorised absence.”