A school governor has been fined for failing to ensure his child attended school.

Paul Lawton, 42, admitted deliberately taking his 13-year-old daughter out of Macclesfield Academy, where he sits on the governing board.

The father-of-five allowed his daughter to skip school for 11 days to go on a family holiday in July last year, a court was told.

Mr Lawton told the court that part of the holiday involved visiting a sick relative.

Mr Lawton, who is also a member of Gawsworth parish council, and his wife Emma, 33, were both issued a fixed penalty notice of £60 by the local education authority.

But when they did not pay up, they were ordered before magistrates in Macclesfield.

The couple, of Warren Drive, Gawsworth, both admitted a charge of failing to ensure a child of compulsory school age attended school regularly.

Magistrates told Mr Lawton he ‘should have known better’ and fined both him and his wife £60 with costs of £70 each.

Gail Isherwood, prosecuting for Cheshire East Council, said: “The offence relates to Mr Lawton’s child’s absence from Macclesfield Academy for 22 sessions between July 9 and 22 last year. On September 4, a fixed penalty notice was requested from the school.

“On October 9, the notices were issued to both parents. It was not paid.”

Paul Lawton on holiday - Facebook

Mr Lawton, who defended himself, became a governor at the school last year. He told the court: “I was brought up in foster homes and had no education. I am a keen and conscientious parent. I am passionate about education. I drum it into my children every day. School is important. Hence my position as a governor at the school. But this was an extraordinary situation. As a farmer and agricultural contractor the summer is our busiest period and we cannot possibly go away.

“We went to see my foster father. He has cancer and whose health is only expected to deteriorate over time. We could ill afford to go, but my daughter is his goddaughter and he wanted to see her.

“The best time to take the holiday was at the end of term.

“I approached the school but I didn’t fill in the paperwork. I disputed the fine with the council and was told it would look into it.”

David Coulston, chair of the bench, said: “As a governor, you really should have known better of the protocols of the school.”

After the hearing, Richard Hedge, headteacher at Macclesfield Academy, said: “The Macclesfield Academy fully supports national policy on attendance.

“Our success in achieving some of England’s most rapidly rising standards over the seven terms since we opened has been based, in part, on improving the attendance of students at school. Permission to be absent from the Academy is granted only in exceptional circumstances. These do not normally include family holidays which, if taken in term time, are almost always regarded as unauthorised absences.

“In cases where a holiday involves ten or more school sessions (ie five or more days) of unauthorised absence, we routinely request the Education Welfare Service at Cheshire East Council to issue a fixed penalty notice.

“We do this without fear or favour and would not make special allowance for a governor or for anybody else. A total of 11 notices were issued to parents of students at the Academy in the 2012-13 school year.”

Macclesfield Academy
Macclesfield Academy

A picture posted on Emma Lawton’s Facebook site on July 14 last year showed Mr Lawton apparently on holiday with the message ‘Down in the pool and at Mijas’. It is part of an album of pictures titled Lawton family holiday to Spain. At Macclesfield Academy parents are fined £60 if their child racks up 10 or more unauthorised absences.

Since September, 75 parents have been issued with fixed penalty notices by Cheshire East Council for allowing their child to be absent from school.

Last year Macclesfield Academy issued 11 fixed penalty notices.

George Wilson, chair of governors, said: “Paul joined the governing body last year and has worked hard on behalf of the Academy, particularly in the Gawsworth community.

“We have a scheduled meeting early next month and, at that meeting, we will ask Mr Lawton for his account of the circumstances that led to his appearance in court last week.

“We will consider carefully what he has to say and then decide, what, if any, action needs to be taken.”