Heart operation Burnley mum 'overwhelmed' with messages of comfort after school refuses leave

Emma Payne with her daughters Charlotte and Sophie
Emma Payne with her daughters Charlotte and Sophie
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A mother-of-two who is set to undergo major heart surgery says she has been inundated with messages of support from parents after her daughters' school refused absence.

Emma Payne, of Burnley, says she has been "under a lot of stress" after St Augustine of Canterbury Primary School refused to let her daughters, Charlotte (10) and eight-year-old Sophie, have up to five days out of school while she undergoes an operation at the Newcastle Freeman Hospital.

Emma and her husband, Mark.

Emma and her husband, Mark.

However, she says the response from parents and well-wishers from across the country has been encouraging and comforting.

The 37-year-old, who runs Emma's Newsagents, on Padiham Road, had open-heart surgery two years ago, but has since had complications and has to undergo a pulmonary valve replacement with a specialist surgeon in Newcastle.

She said the response from the school has been "inhumane" as the date could not be changed and she had no childcare for her two daughters because her husband, Mark, and parents will be with her, but the school said the time off is too close to her daughter's SATs exams in May.

Speaking to the Burnley Express, she said: "It's awful and I am so angry. I am a responsible parent and I have organised extra tuition lessons for Charlotte so she doesn't miss out on any work.

"The school is being unreasonable and inhumane for only authorising two days absence. This whole situation could have been resolved over a cup of tea behind closed doors, but the headteacher hasn't even rang me. Instead, I could be facing a fine of £120 per child."

Emma's plight has come under the national spotlight and she appeared on BBC Northwest Tonight last night (Thursday) speaking about her ordeal.

"Since the story hit the nationals, I have been inundated with messages of support and encouragement from parents who cannot understand the insensitive and heartless response of the school. It has been overwhelming."

Responding, Sinead Colbeck, headteacher at St. Augustine's RC Primary School, Burnley, said: "We cannot comment on individual cases. Even though we work in line with government guidelines which make it clear that absence can only be authorised in exceptional circumstances, we speak with the families concerned each time to make sure that the reasons are totally understood so that every decision is appropriate. We give careful consideration to each request and review on an ongoing basis."

County Councillor Susie Charles, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Schools, said: "It would be inappropriate to comment on individual cases, however, schools have a very clear policy, based on government guidance, regarding the authorisation of leave. The decision to authorise absence or not rests with the headteacher of the particular school. Schools work closely with parents to understand the reasons for the request. Each request is always taken on its merits. School attendance is given high priority in Lancashire schools and rightly so, as every day counts in each pupil's education. However our aim throughout is not to punish parents, but to ensure that children and young people attend school and receive a good education."