Mum escaped from headteacher’s window to stop son’s truancy

The Archer family. Ten-year-old Michael declined to be photographed.
The Archer family. Ten-year-old Michael declined to be photographed.

Police sirens blaring, a toddler smuggled out of a headteacher’s office window and an occasional dragging to school...

For Howard and Maria Archer, these are just some antics involved in their battle to get 10-year-old son Michael to go to Leighton Buzzard’s Gilbert Inglefield Academy.

And for the worried parents, it’s even more of a rigmarole making sure he stays there – and they’ve called on the school to do more.

Mr Archer, 49, said: “My wife started to take him to school and she ended up having to wait for an hour or longer to stop him running off!”

It is a difficult situation for mum Maria, 51, who cares for two-year-old son James who has Down’s syndrome.

Mr Archer said: “Every day she was taking him and on one occasion, because she has to make Michael think she’s still there, she had to escape through a window and have little James passed to her out the window!”

Headteacher Rachel Swaffield confirmed the incident took place out her office window. She said: “There was one occasion where we had to smuggle her out of the school. She needed to go.”

Mr Archer says the situation has become so serious that police have been called “on more than one occasion” after Michael absconded.

He added: “Basically they were called because he was out of the school running by the road and they were called to catch him.

“I’ve physically carried him into school.”

Mr and Mrs Archer, who have six children, said the last straw came when they were issued with a council fine because of Michael’s truancy.

Scaffolder Mr Archer said: “They fined us anyway for him not going to school. After all that and we’ve gone through this stress. We’ve asked, ‘can you help, can anyone help?’

“It all started in September, when he went to Gilbert Inglefield. After about a week, he refused to go to school. He said he didn’t like it and the teachers, and then it was just that school was boring!

“Maria is very, very stressed. She’s been reduced to tears lots of times when she’s in the staff room.”

In response to the Archers’ complaint, headteacher Mrs Swaffield told the LBO: “The local authority has withdrawn the fine. He’s getting as far as school now.

“I had actually got in touch with Central Bedfordshire Council and said, ‘we don’t want this’. Somehow the message hadn’t got through.

“When I got through again, they were terribly apologetic. Initially the fine was used only as a threat. It’s been a difficult situation and I said to the local authority [the parents] are working with us. It’s about getting him over that threshold.”

But Mr Archer said: “If he’s at the school and he escapes I know they cannot bolt him in, but it’s difficult. It’s gone on so long.

“We just want them to help us a bit more because we’re stressed to pieces. Michael’s not being educated.”

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