A couple are being prosecuted for briefly taking their gifted daughters out of school to attend an ‘elite’ sports camp to train to become international athletes.
Teenagers Nicole and Lauren Short, aged 16 and 15, have already represented England at volleyball and are being hailed as stars of the future.
Their parents Edward and Hazel sent them to a three-week sporting enrichment course in Tenerife run by by four British international volleyball players.
Two of the weeks were during the school holiday but six and a half of days were during school time.
The couple have refused to pay the £60 fixed penalty fine issued by the council for each girl and already appeared in court.
They both denied the charge before North Devon Magistrates and have vowed to fight the case all the way.
Their local Tory MP Peter Heaton-Jones said he sympathised with their case and would be raising the issue in Parliament.
Mr. Short, 48, said: “I was gobsmacked, furious and surprised when we were told we were being prosecuted.”
“It just highlights why the law is not working.”
“We are all gutted – what country would not try to support young athletes?”
He added that sports like surfing and volleyball, which required travel to warmer countries, would become “elitist” if students were not allowed to do them during term time because of summer holiday price hikes.
He said his two daughters, who both attend Braunton Academy in north Devon, are “gifted and talented” in sport.
The school’s principal refused to authorise their absence, meaning their attendance fell below the threshold allowed by law.
In preparing their defence they quoted Braunton Academy’s attendance policy, which states: “If you let us know when your child is away from school, we can authorise the absence which will not affect their attendance figure.”
Mr Short said: “I don’t always agree that parents know best but we met all the requirements.”
“My local MP Peter Heaton-Jones is going to take the case into the Houses of Parliament to argue the system is not working.”
“This highlights how graphic the flaws in the system are.”
Mr Heaton-Jones confirmed he had been involved in the case and had sympathy for the family involved.
He said: “I have a great deal of sympathy for their case.”
“I have said consistently that we need to review how some schools and education authorities are interpreting the rules.”
The North Devon MP said parents should decide what was best for their children and should not be penalised for allowing them to miss “a few days of school” – particularly for an “important sporting event” such as this.
He added: “Common sense needs to prevail. Of course pupils must attend school regularly and should absolutely not be allowed to miss weeks on end.”
“But I cannot see a problem with a few days for an activity like this. I’ve already raised this issue in Parliament and will be taking it up again.”
Mr Short said that he realised the issue was a difficult one for the school but felt that the circumstances required it to “man up a bit and fight Ofsted”.
He added that he did not know what the full ramifications would be for him and his family but would “fight our corner”.
The couple, from Braunton, are due to appear in court again in July.
Braunton Academy have so far declined to comment.