Mum has day in court school absence row

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A Spalding mum says she “reluctantly” pleaded guilty in court yesterday to keeping her teenage daughter off school.

Tracey Baxter was unrepresented at Boston Magistrates’ Court and, when asked whether she was guilty or not guilty, paused for a short while, sobbed and then said, “Yes, I guess I am”.

Her daughter Devon (16) has psoriatic arthritis – a 
disease where joints around the body become inflamed and sore.

In addition, doctors have found a problem with her liver that affects her immune system and catching a winter bug can mean she is out of action for two weeks.

Mrs Baxter, of Chestnut Avenue, was charged that she had been the parent of a child of compulsory school age registered at a school who failed to attend regularly. She was given a six-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £50 costs and £15 victim surcharge.

After the case, she told the Guardian: “I didn’t want to plead guilty because Devon is ill - if it had been that she didn’t go for no good reason I would have taken it on the chin.

“I know the school was only doing its job, but I am, too. I am her mum and I have to protect her. She’s 16 and she doesn’t even go out with her mates – it’s heartbreaking.”

Prosecuting for Lincolnshire County Council, Anne Whelan said the school had visited on several occasions and tried to organise help following the absences, which were made after medical evidence said the daughter should have been able to attend school.

She said: “At the moment, it doesn’t look like Devon is going to go on a straight pass for Post 16 education. “It’s hoped to find some help for her so she can get the best start.”

Magistrates pointed to GP records which said Devon could go to school

Breaking into tears, Mrs Baxter said: “People can’t see, when she’s at home crying because she’s always ill.”

Mrs Baxter said she hoped the future was brighter as the medication Devon is now on has the arthritis under control. She said: “Devon only has two months left at school so her support worker is helping her to get on a child care course.

“We are keeping our fingers crossed.”