Today’s columnist, Veronica Clark: It took time to show some proper compassion

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One of the most heartbreaking stories had to be that of Tracey Fidler, who was charged with 25 charges of ‘truancy’ by her council after she kept her son Adam off school following his father’s death.

Reading Council was fully aware that the 11-year-old was still grieving for Kris, 39, who had been killed by a drink-driver.

Yet despite the little boy’s obvious distress, it decided to press ahead with legal action. However, once the case made the newspapers, the council suddenly backtracked and dropped all charges against her. I should think so too.

Do the people who make these decisions actually possess a heart?

Was it not blindingly obvious poor Adam couldn’t face school because he’d just lost his father, and in such sudden and tragic circumstances?

Following the accident in February last year, heartbroken Adam refused to leave his mother’s side for fear she wouldn’t come back. Tracey said she tried to get her children to return to school, but unsurprisingly, they found it difficult to cope. Utterly heartbreaking. Although Adam’s school was fully aware of the situation, it decided it was still not a good enough reason to justify keeping him at home. But if the death of his father isn’t a good enough reason, then tell me what is?

No, the problem here is parents are being wrongly penalised for their child’s absence because low attendance affects a school’s ratings.

But surely anyone with a beating heart would understand why Adam needed time off school? Government rules state a child can only be absent if they are too ill to go in or the parent has advance permission from the school.

But surely a little commonsense should prevail in a tragic case like this?

If you or I lost a parent or a partner, we’d probably be given compassionate leave from work, so why doesn’t it work that way for children like Adam?

It was only after the media highlighted how insensitive it was that Reading Council backed down. But all that extra stress and worry for a mother who was probably trying her level best just to get through each day.

The truth of the matter here is it shouldn’t have even brought them in the first place.

I’m all for children having an excellent level of attendance so that they can get the best from education. But when something terrible happens, surely everyone with a vested interest in the child’s wellbeing should pull together to try to offer support.