A MOTHER who took her nine-year-old daughter on a backpacking holiday through Europe, causing her to miss more than three weeks of school, has been fined.

Jackie Turner failed to secure permission from Ledbury Primary School before taking Hazel Sequira on the trip which included stops at countries including Hungary, Bulgaria and Croatia.

Herefordshire Council decided to prosecute the 50-year-old as the absence saw Hazel's attendance dip below the required threshold for that term.

Turner argued the trip was of educational benefit and said the attendance should be considered over the course of a whole year, not just one term.

But magistrates sitting at Hereford Magistrates Court found her guilty under the Education Act.

Hereford Times:

Mrs Turner and her daughter during the trip

Hazel's father, Maxon Sequira, 44, from Oatleys Crescent in Ledbury, received the same punishment despite not going on the trip as the council also declared him at fault for not ensuring Hazel was at school during the three-week period last November.

Addressing magistrates, Ms Turner said: "It has never been suggested that we are bad parents.

"Maxon has been dragged into this. He wasn't aware that prosecution was possible; I wasn't. I'm more culpable.

"I know my child. I know she received more education during these three weeks away than in a three-week period in Year Four.

"I don't believe she was put in educational detriment.

"In the autumn, spring and summer terms, she had over 90 per cent attendance. That is the period that Hazel's attendance should be measured. Anything else is arbitrary."

Turner argued the case was educational saying the pair wrote a travel blog each evening.

"We also went to Roman museums, went to a lot of places in relation to the Bosnian war and saw the bridge where Archduke Ferdinand was shot at the start of the war," she said.

She said Hazel has been exceeding her school targets since the trip, adding she doesn't think it will adversely affect her GCSE performance in the years to come.

The trip came about after Ms Turner, who lives in Cordwainers Lane, Leominster, changed jobs and had a three-week window before starting her new position.

School rules say requests for absence should be made at least six weeks before, but she says she didn't have that amount of time.

She admitted she was always going to go on the trip and, as such, emailed the school to ask if there was any work she needed to set, but this ended up being diverted to the school's 'spam' email account and wasn't noticed.

Education officer Lorraine Ralph said Turner would not have faced any legal repercussions had she de-registered Hazel from school for the three weeks, something the defendant was considering. However, the parent was warned by the officer this may disrupt her education and that there would be no guarantee a place would remain at the same school when she returned.

Dean Hulse, on behalf of the council, said the 17 absent days meant she was present for just 73 per cent of days that term, the threshold for further investigation being below 85 per cent.

Both parents were fined £170, ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £20, and £500 towards court costs.

Speaking outside court, Ms Turner said she was disappointed by the outcome.

"I'm disappointed for Maxon than anything else," she said.

"He is only here because he is Hazel's father.

"I think it was a mistaken decision. I think they could have looked at a wider period.

"Why waste all this public time chasing good parents?"

Cllr Jonathan Lester, the council's cabinet member for young people and children’s wellbeing, issued a statement saying: "We certainly don’t want to prevent children from experiencing new challenges and cultures which can enrich their development, but it’s imperative that this doesn’t interfere with their education and that parents do this in partnership with their child’s school.

"We are pleased that the court agreed with our assessment and would encourage other parents not to take their children out of school unless in exceptional circumstances and with the full agreement of the headteacher."