A furious mother has been handed a £120 term time holiday fine after a charity took her autistic daughter on the holiday of her dreams to distract her from being bullied.
Ella Singleton, nine, struggled to make friends at school and was left devastated last year when she was handed a Christmas card saying ‘To Ella, I hate you’.
She said she ‘wanted to die’ and was found on a street corner after trying to run away from home without any shoes.
But after her mother Jenna, 32, posted about her ordeal on social media, the family have been flooded with kind messages and even a free 10-day skiing holiday in Italy.
Eighteen days after they got home, Ms Singleton got a letter in the post from Liverpool City Council informing her of a £120 term time holiday fine for taking Ella out of school.
Ella Singleton (pictured with mother Jenna), nine, struggled to make friends at school and was left devastated last year when she was handed a Christmas card saying ‘To Ella, I hate you’. She said she ‘wanted to die’ and was found on a street corner after trying to run away from home without any shoes
Ms Singleton, of Liverpool, claims teachers were ‘delighted’ when they heard Ella had been offered a place on the trip and consented for her to go.
She has vowed to appeal the fine after slamming it as ‘unfair’ and ‘disgraceful’.
Jenna said: ‘I’m absolutely fuming. Considering the circumstances in which the trip came about, I thought the school would have been more sympathetic.
‘Ella was distraught when she received that Christmas card and she was crying her heart out for a long time.
‘Shortly afterwards Katie’s Ski Tracks got in touch to offer her one of the 20 places on the trip.
‘She was delighted and it gave her something to look forward to again, and it really helped to build her confidence back up again.
Little Ella (pictured on her skiing holiday to Italy) said she ‘wanted to die’ and was found on a street corner after trying to run away from home without any shoes
‘I would understand the fine if I had not discussed the trip with the school or had taken her away by myself.
‘But this was a once in a lifetime trip and the dates were set in stone. There was nothing I could do about it.
‘And I had a meeting with the head teacher and others to let them know Ella had been offered a place on the trip, and sent them a letter the week before to remind them.
‘Her special needs coordinator joked that he was ‘jealous’ of her and told her grandfather they were aware of the trip when he picked her up after I had sent the letter.’
Ella, a pupil at Ranworth Square Primary in Liverpool, was left devastated when a fellow pupil wrote a Christmas card, which read: ‘To Ella, Yappy Christmas, I hat [sic] you.’
She had been struggling to make friends and, according to Jenna, was initially delighted to have received cards from class mates.
But when she opened it, Jenna says she became extremely upset and violent and said she wanted to die.
But after her mother Jenna (pictured with Ella), 32, posted about her ordeal on social media, the family have been flooded with kind messages and even a free 10-day skiing holiday in Italy
She ran two streets from her home before eventually being stopped by a parcel delivery driver.
But Ella was flooded with messages of support after her mum posted her story online and Katie’s Ski Tracks got in touch to offer her a place on the ski trip.
Doctors waived the fee they normally charge to fill out the necessary documentation to allow her to travel as it was a charitable trip.
Jenna said: ‘The card she got from school left her really upset. She would burst into tears and say everyone hates her.
‘But the trip made her so excited and it was all she would talk about for ages.
‘It’s something she would never have had the change to do otherwise.
‘There were 20 children on the trip with 29 adults, including a doctor, two nurses and a physiotherapist.
‘The kids were taught to ski and had evening quizzes. They were taken to a lovely church on Sunday.
Eighteen days after they got home, Ms Singleton got a letter in the post from Liverpool City Council informing her of a £120 term time holiday fine for taking Ella (pictured) out of school
‘I was so grateful she was given the chance to go and Ella made some great friends on the trip. It’s really helped her.’
Ella returned from the trip on March 4 and Jenna thought everything had gone smoothly until she received the letter.
She said: ‘I couldn’t believe it when I read it. I was so disappointed.
‘I went for a meeting with the headteacher straight away, and he told me that if they let one child get away with it they would have to let everyone else off.
‘But I thought I had explained this was a special case and it was all sorted.
‘I’m certainly going to appeal it. It just doesn’t seem right to me.’
The letter states Jenna has 21 days to pay a £60 fine, or else it doubles to £120.
A Ranworth Primary School spokesperson said: ‘Our hands are tied because the Department for Education has very strict rules which means that we are unable to grant permission for time off in term time except in truly exceptional circumstances.
‘These include visiting a seriously ill family member or attending the funeral of an immediate relative.
‘The legislation, which was tightened in 2013, has been backed by a ruling in the Supreme Court.
‘There is an appeals process which mum is free to pursue if she wishes.’