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Facing prosecution for protecting our livelihood during the Covid crisis

We are Ryan and Faye Moffat - parents to Isobelle (14) and Amalie (10). We run a small family butchers shop in Nelson, Lancashire.

On 30th September 2021, we will be at our local magistrates’ court, defending a criminal prosecution pursued against us by the Local Education Authority (LEA) because of the steps we were forced to take in order to protect our livelihood (and consequently the wellbeing of our two children).

Our offence? Home-schooling our child for a relatively short period of time to minimise the risk of a business closure resulting from Covid self-isolation regulations at an absolutely critical pre-Xmas period.

We need your help to fight the LEA, who have far more resources at their disposal (at the expense of the taxpayer).

All donations are greatly appreciated. 

In more detail:

At the end of November 2020, when Covid-19 was rife in our local area, and ‘bubbles’ of children were being sent home from Lancashire schools to self-isolate, we made the reluctant decision to keep our children away from school for the last few weeks of term in order to minimise the risk of them catching Covid-19 and/or bringing home the virus. We run our butchers shop by ourselves, so had Isobelle or Amalie tested positive for Covid-19, we would have had no choice but to self-isolate, close our shop and cease all business activity for a minimum of 14 days.

A business closure at that time of year (the run up to Xmas) would have been financially devastating for our business and family. In addition to the loss of sales profit (which helps to sustain our business during the quieter times of year), we were carrying an exceptionally large volume of perishable stock which was at risk of write-off. Also, failure to fulfil Xmas orders could have had a long-term impact on business goodwill, potentially resulting in a complete business failure.

Failure to pay our mortgage could have resulted in the loss of both our business premises and living accommodation.

Amalie’s school (primary school) did not support our decision and refused to authorise leave (we requested 13 school days). No opportunity was provided to discuss our circumstances in detail with the Headteacher, or to have his decision not to authorise leave reviewed. We removed Amalie from school without authorisation.

Five days after Amalie was taken out of school, a child on her class table tested positive for Covid-19. Had Amalie remained in school, she would have been off school and in self-isolation for nine school days. This is the best case scenario.

In January 2021, after the government had closed schools for Lockdown No. 3, the school requested that we be fined for Amalie’s unauthorised absence.

We wrote to the LEA and explained that we would not be paying the fines because the school had failed to compare the potential detriment a business closure in December would cause Amalie versus the detrimental impact caused by a few lost school days (with home learning). We also made it clear that we believed the circumstances surrounding our request for leave were exceptional.

The LEA did not respond and proceeded with the prosecution.

Issues arising from this action:

Complete lack of common sense and sympathy for commercial imperatives by public-sector officials who are isolated to such risk.

Draconian treatment handed out in this instance relative to other school absences – no concern shown by the LEA for ensuring parity of treatment across schools (our eldest daughter is a case in point!)

It is mind-boggling how the LEA could consider this prosecution to be in the public interest. Surely in these times there are better causes for deploying public resources and court time?

It is difficult to see what is achieved by this action – Amalie doesn't have an issue with attendance; therefore, this action won’t improve her attendance!

Thank you for taking the time to read our story.