A MOTHER has told of her anger after her daughters' primary school would not allow them five days off while she undergoes a life-saving heart operation.

Emma Payne said she felt let down by St Augustine of Canterbury Primary School in Burnley after it refused to let her daughters, Charlotte, 10, and Sophie, eight, have up to five days out of school while she undergoes an operation at the Newcastle Freeman Hospital in a few weeks.

She wants her daughters to be with her during the hospital stay and, as her husband Mark will be in Newcastle, there would be no one to care for them at home.

The surgery can only take place during term-time as that is the only time a specialist from London can lead the keyhole procedure.

Mrs Payne, 37, who runs Emma’s Newsagents in the town, said she applied for both her daughters to have five days' leave, hoping they would only need between two and three days if the operation went well.

If the operation was not a success, Mrs Payne would need open heart surgery and that would keep her in hospital for five days.

However, in a letter the Lowerhouse Lane school said it had only authorised two days' absence and would not allow five days due to Charlotte's standard attainment tests (SATs) exams in May.

This leaves Mrs Payne facing fines and going to court, she said. She said: “I’m not requesting the time for a holiday or because I’ve got a broken nail, I’m having surgery to save my life.

“My husband, Mark, will take me up to the hospital for the operation on the Tuesday and will be with me, no one else can look after my children and they want to be close to me.

“I requested they have work brought up with them for them so they aren’t sitting around doing nothing, but the school have just said no to the five days.

“I’m hoping they will be back in school by the Thursday, but if the operation doesn’t work I will have to have open heart surgery, another risky procedure, and be up there for a few more days.”

The mother-of-two has had two major heart operations in 2006 and 2017. The latest operation, a pulmonary valve replacement, has only been done 20 times at the hospital, Mrs Payne said.

The six-hour procedure involves keyhole surgery through an incision in her leg.

She said: “I’m frustrated with the school because they’re using the tests, which aren’t for another two months, against me and are more concerned about their Ofsted results.

“My previous appointments have all managed to be away from term time but this operation has to be when the surgeon can perform it.”

“The children know that I’m undergoing a tough operation and they want to be close to me."

Sinead Colbeck, headteacher at St. Augustine's RC Primary School said: " We cannot comment on individual cases.

"Even though we work in line with government guidelines which make it clear that absence can only be authorised in exceptional circumstances, we speak with the families concerned each time to make sure that the reasons are totally understood so that every decision is appropriate.

"We give careful consideration to each request and review on an ongoing basis."

County Cllr Susie Charles, cabinet member for children, young people and schools, said:  "It would be inappropriate to comment on individual cases however schools have a very clear policy, based on government guidance, regarding the authorisation of leave. 

"The decision to authorise absence or not rests with the headteacher of the particular school.

"Schools work closely with parents to understand the reasons for the request.

"Each request is always taken on its merits.

"School attendance is given high priority in Lancashire schools and rightly so, as every day counts in each pupil's education.

"However our aim throughout is not to punish parents but to ensure that children and young people attend school and receive a good education."