Dad's anger after school fines him £120 for taking his son out of school for D-Day service in Normandy

-Credit: (Image: Getty / Lee Sutherland)
-Credit: (Image: Getty / Lee Sutherland)

A dad who took his son out of school so he could go to Normandy for the 80th anniversary of D-Day has spoken out after he was hit with a fine. Lee Sunderland filed a leave of absence form with Selston High School a month before the trip with his son Stanley, stressing that it was for educational purposes.

“My intent on going was 100% for educational purposes, I did stress that to Stanley’s head of year," the 48-year-old said. “If we’d have been sat round a beach in Spain, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, I’d just pay the fine and accept it.

"But this was not a holiday like that. I strongly believe this shouldn’t be classed as a holiday and that it is exceptional circumstances.”

The school wrote to Lee saying that regardless of this, the absence would be unauthorised and that he would be fined £120, £60 per adult in the family. During the trip, Lee and 15-year-old Stanley visited museums and cemeteries as well as the ceremony on Utah beach.

The pair arrived at the commemoration at 6.30am and stood with thousands of people showing their appreciation for the fallen. “Most of all it's just paying our respects, the amount of suffering that happened on that beach on that day is hard to describe really," Lee added. When you’re there in Normandy it's very intense.”

His son Stanley is an avid WW2 enthusiast and has attended the 70th, 75th and now 80th D-Day landing anniversaries with Lee. He believes their latest visit is the most important as it's likely to be one of the last with surviving veterans.

Lee, a father of three, only took Stanley out of school because he's "World War II obsessed”. He says travelling to Normandy is a “once in a lifetime trip” for his son. “Stanley’s not one to show his emotions but you could see he was visibly upset standing on the beach," Lee added.

“It’s only the 80th anniversary once and the veteran’s association say it’s actually the last of the big events because there’s not many left that are alive.”

He challenged the fine with Stanley’s head of year who informed him that the trip could not be authorised as an ‘exceptional circumstance’ as this was for bereavement reasons only. Lee also emailed the school's headteacher but he is yet to reply.

Lee says that he believes the trip should have been authorised by the school and he's prepared to go to court if the fine isn't retracted.

On their website Selston High School states: “Such unauthorised absences of 4 days or more will lead to a request being made for the local authority to issue a penalty notice. This is not a decision that the school will take lightly, and the full context of the situation will be thoroughly considered before making such a decision.”

A Selston High School spokesperson said: "Government guidance states that any planned term-time absence must be an ‘exceptional circumstance’ and personal educational visits do not fall into this category. Schools are obligated to report any unauthorised absence to the local authority.

"Maintaining good attendance is important to the education of all our students, as it is critical to ensuring our young people reach their full potential."