School ‘all about stats’ as mum withdraws daughter

PUBLISHED: 10:06 15 June 2015

Natasha Cooke with her daughter Sophia.

Natasha Cooke with her daughter Sophia.

Archant

A 12-YEAR-OLD suffering panic and anxiety attacks has been withdrawn from school by her mother, who says she has been left ‘at her wits’ end’ after she was threatened with prosecution over the girl’s attendance.

Sophia Cooke, from Brent Knoll, was a pupil at Churchill Academy but begun having panic attacks after her elder sister’s autism became violent this year.

Mum Natasha says school staff were initially accommodating – even offering to send work home so she would not fall behind – but that changed when a penalty notice arrived in the post, and worsened when she was told she was ‘free to withdraw’ Sophia at any time.

Ms Cooke said: “I fought to get her into Churchill, we didn’t want to disrupt her development when we moved house, but with her sister it became more and more difficult to get her to go in, I’d sit with her in the car park for an hour every day. The school nurse, the head of house and other teachers spoke to her and suggested emailing work home – but a week later we had the penalty through out of the blue.

“We have enough to deal with without this. I spoke to the school and they were unsympathetic; this week Sophia was off with a stomach bug, and they said she would be marked as an unauthorised absence without a doctor’s note.

“I’m at my wits’ end, it’s all about attendance statistics and not pupils’ welfare. When I took her in on Tuesday I was told ‘you’re free to withdraw her at any time’ and it was the final straw.

“It feels like I can’t do anything right by them. I’ve never known anything like it.”

A Churchill spokesman said: “The academy will not make any comment about an individual student or their family. Although this leaves the academy vulnerable to any one-sided and unbalanced attack, it’s integrity is more important and only by holding to this can we build a strong mutual trust with families.

“Our duty is to ensure students attend school. When a student’s attendance becomes a serious cause for concern we do all we can to rectify the situation. This will inevitably require us to challenge parents and 
we set out to do so fairly but consistently.”

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