Star date: 22nd November 2017


"He wasn't going out enjoying himself; he was actually at home trying to breathe..."

A judge at Manchester and Salford Magistrates' Court has thrown out a fine given by Buile Hill Visual Arts College to mum, Nicola Newns, for 'unauthorised absences' of her son, Jacob, despite him suffering from the same serious illness that tragically took the life of his younger brother, Ben, a few years ago.

Court papers showed that the school complained it took them two hours once to contact Nicola – when she was actually in an ambulance with Jacob on the way to A&E; and then couldn't contact her for four days...when she was sat by his bed in intensive care "Praying he gets better".

Full details here...

"I still don't understand how the school could have done this...It's just heartless..."

Nicola Newns has been at her wits' end since her son, Ben, died of a very rare form of asthma three years ago, aged just twelve. At the time, the community and his school, Buile Hill Visual Arts College, mourned such a tragic loss of life at such a young age.

"The teachers cried at the time but those there now don't know what we as a family went through" says Nicola. Ben had one of the worst forms of asthma imaginable, and his older brother, Jacob, has the same serious illness...

"Our consultant told me three months before Ben died to make memories with my children because the asthma is that bad" she recalls "In intensive care they have to incubate them and that is becoming more difficult. The last time I took Jacob in, they couldn't get a vent down and we nearly lost him. So I'm lucky every day that Jacob wakes up...but the school was more 'Education, education, education'..."

Understandably, Nicola was consumed with her son's health and if he was feeling ill kept him off school... "My action plan states 'Keep him at home, keep my eye on him, make sure that he doesn't deteriorate, and any sign of deterioration send him to the hospital, no questions asked'...and that is what we did" she explains.

"If he was bad and I'd sent him to school, and he'd had an asthma attack in the corridor or bathroom I would never ever forgive myself or the school" she adds "And that was my concern and why I kept him at home and kept my eye on him. I think any parent would, when you've got that hanging over your head... 'What if, what if'...when he's in my eyesight I know he's ok. I wanted to keep my son here so that eventually he can have an education and he can have a life."

The school took a different view, recording 'unauthorised absences' and, says Nicola, refusing sometimes to believe that he was ill at all...

"Because I didn't have a letter of proof to say 'This is what happened', the school thought he was just not turning up" she adds "It got to the point where I felt so threatened and bullied by the school that I refused to call them because they would literally insinuate on the phone that I was a liar...

"They'd say 'Oh no, we've seen him out', and I'd go 'Ok you've seen him going to the shop and coming back maybe because the child can't go far out of sight'. They'd say 'He's been seen talking to his friend'...but he wasn't going out enjoying himself, he was actually at home trying to breathe. With the history of losing Ben surely they should have realised that it was important for me to keep my eye on him."

Finally the school fined Nicola £50 for 'unauthorised absences', which she refused to pay on principle... "I thought 'I'm not paying this, Jacob is a genuinely poorly child, he's not wagging it'" she explains "Jacob did go a bit wobbly after Ben died, and that is understandable because he'd just lost his brother and thought he was next. So he didn't want to go into school. He had panic attacks and cried himself to sleep but the school didn't see that, and I had to put up with all that."

The case went to Manchester and Salford Magistrates Court last month but a solicitor got the hearing adjourned for further medical reports. On the court papers the school catalogues the absences, including one occasion a few years ago when it couldn't contact Nicola for two hours. The papers document the response from Nicola at the time, saying she was in an ambulance on the way to hospital after Jacob had suffered a severe asthma attack.

"Then they complained that they couldn't get hold of me for four days, and that was because he was in intensive care fighting for his life" she explains "Yes, they couldn't get hold of me for four days, because I was sat by my child's bed praying he gets better. They did not give a damn. It was just 'We need to know'. To be honest, I didn't care. I just wanted my son to be okay because this incident happened almost ten months to the day since I'd lost Ben."

The case was due to go back to the Magistrates' Court this month, on Jacob's 17th birthday, but in the morning of the hearing, the judge reviewed the medical evidence and threw out the charges. In the process, the school was saved from an embarrassing public hearing.

"I still don't understand how the school could have done this" says Nicola "I had to pay for my son's funeral and now they wanted to fine me? It's just heartless. All through this, the Head Teacher, Mr Inman never spoke to us. There was nothing from him; it was all through the attendance office. I didn't understand why he didn't get involved."

Jacob left Buile Hill at the end of the last school year... "We to the clinic last week and they said 'He's got no hopes, no dreams'...I feel like he's giving up educationally wise and now he's backed off" says Nicola "It's awful to see. No-one wants that for their child. They want them to be happy and fulfilled. I don't want him to give up on his hopes. I just feel so sorry for him..."

The Salford Star contacted Buile Hill Visual Arts College about the case. The school responded...

"To get any case to court, schools have to go through rigorous systems of checks and consultations which involve multiple agencies and of course, the family. It would be inappropriate for us to comment on the range of intervention we adopted with Jacob and his family other than to say that it was extensive.

"Throughout this process the school have put Jacob's safety, welfare and education at the centre of all the decision making" it added "Jacob is a lovely young man who has huge potential, really bright prospects and as a school, we have always endeavoured to support him with all of our available resources..."


Arnold Rimmer wrote
at 12:10:40 PM on Thursday, November 30, 2017
Bit of a one sided story regardless of facts. Kid's mum can say what she wants but the school is bound by data protection laws and can't really give a proper response without breaking the law. Could be a different side to this. Schools don't take parents to court for no good reason.
Wendy burns wrote
at 3:54:21 PM on Monday, November 27, 2017
The end if school would off communicated with Nicola and supported her she wouldn't of had to communicate with Salford star hopefully this will bring publicity and help other poorly children get more support from buile hill in future but I won't hold my breath
Wendy burns wrote
at 3:54:03 PM on Monday, November 27, 2017
Martin Stevens your another judgemental prick keep your noes out off things you know nothing about
wendyburns wrote
at 1:09:16 PM on Monday, November 27, 2017
mrs howard head off year needs to go back to traing school too
wendyburns wrote
at 1:09:11 PM on Monday, November 27, 2017
nicola i am so pleased justice as prevailed i know how little support you received from builehill they had no intressed in jacobs severe condition i sat there while you reaptedly phoned school for support and despite your efforts got nowhere request for home school or reduced time tables were refused you never did anna goddard head of attendance get off her arse and come and see a poorley jacob on his oxygen or you on the verge off a brake down out off worry you and jacob were let down by the whole school so glad the judge threw it out the whole attendance team need to go on a refresher course cause ovbiously dont have a clue they showed no understanding or sympathy and only care about what makes them look good anyway well done nicola and jacob x
Sean wrote
at 1:08:41 PM on Monday, November 27, 2017
Absolutely appalling buile hill should hang there head in shame it's known locally as bully hill it's time ofstead done a unannounced visit
Caroline Gray wrote
at 1:53:41 AM on Saturday, November 25, 2017
a veil of tears...so sorry your..lost..the sad thing is rules for teachers..my daughter is one.. if a child cry's u are not to hug ..ok a need wee teachers told no help.. etc blame labour there rules..My daughter is a teacher and with others have tried to change things ..what can u do when they say every male is a piederfile sorry cannot spell it..rules that are crazy..may be u can help stop this madness ..
Michael James Felse wrote
at 8:11:35 AM on Friday, November 24, 2017
I demand our elected Mayor calls in all our head teachers to an Education Legal Rights Executive meeting to ensure nothing in Salford schools ever again causes distress. I also demand our elected Mayor meets the mum to guarantee nothing again will cause a caring parent hurt and to explain her rights in education provision terms. I am ashamed to hear this happened and must say the Court has delivered justice.
THE END wrote
at 8:11:21 AM on Friday, November 24, 2017
maybe if she had communicated with the school as well as she has with The Star, she would not have been in such a position
Gemma wrote
at 1:29:25 AM on Friday, November 24, 2017
Martin Stevens you are completely wrong.It is NOT law that your child goes to school, and it never has been. It is LAW that your child is educated, a completely different proposition. Anyone who wants can Home Educate, and you don't need any specific qualifications. Been there, done that, and got the tee-shirt. Clearly though, you haven't been EDUCATED, as you clearly have misunderstood the whole point of the Article and why the Court threw it out. Or are you proposing that sick children must get out of their Hospital bed and go to School?
Nicola Newns wrote
at 12:40:20 PM on Thursday, November 23, 2017
Martin Steven, how lucky you are to have a child healthy enough to follow that law, the article isn't about staying off school for the fun of it.
Tracey wrote
at 10:15:06 AM on Thursday, November 23, 2017
I worked at RMCH and knew both Ben & Jacob and both kids were poorly, when they came to Hosp after having an asthma attack they usually ended up in PICU. Nicola never left the boys side just what any parent would do. Perhaps they should have come to Hosp to see Jacob on life support and see a machine breathing for him then say he wasn't sick and see what the family had to cope with maybe they would think twice. Tragically Ben died and poor Jacob has to live with the knowledge that he has the same condition and could end up in Hosp within a matter of minutes at any time of day or night.This school is a disgrace to the education system. Nicola should be compensated for all the stress that the school put on her when she was already getting should a heavy load. Well done Nicola for winning the case, a case you clearly deserve 👍👏
Claire wrote
at 2:34:01 AM on Thursday, November 23, 2017
Oh my god that's disgusting and just so disrespectful my heart goes out to you.my daughter is 14 and goes to that school and I have been close to tears myself Because of the way they make you feel and the phonecalls over the slightest thing,,but they think they can say or do anything and its OK,,one day at dinner time my daughter asked a member of staff if she could go in and use the toilet ,,the reply was "no there's some bushes over there",, and a few days later asks again while she was in a lesson,,it can't he heplt if you need the toilet you need the toilet end off,,, the reply was " No" she said i really need the toilet I can't wee myself,,my daughter was almost in tears and she had to sneek her phone out of her bag and TeX me saying "mum I really need the toilet and I'm going to wee myself in a min I really am and they won't let me go" I then rang school explained to reception that my daughter as texd me upset and they better get a message to her class to let her go toilet because if she wees herself in front of the class I'll be furious,,that's nothing the list goes on and on to the point I think its teacher bullying the school is a joke and disgusting,,,
Dereck Office wrote
at 2:33:12 AM on Thursday, November 23, 2017
It is about time this school was investigated fir bullying not only of kids but staff by the senior leaders One was 'sacked' however the bullying of staff continues On the in service training day in September there was an hour long presentation on Capability process to sack teachers who do not follow the leadership plan. There results continue to drop 60+ staff have left in the last two years. Why will Salford not investigate? probably because they like tbe action of the head and hus acolytes. A school ruined by a bully culture led by the head and removing quality staff who stood up to him. Time to wake up and smell the roses quality school down the oan
Martin Stevens wrote
at 2:30:12 AM on Thursday, November 23, 2017
All lies start printing some truth. As a mother myself I would want my child to go to school not spend my life always looking for blame. It’s the law your child goes to school.
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