A NORTH-EAST parent has criticised the actions of a primary school after both of his children "were excluded" for two weeks because they were dropped off by a grandparent.

Ryan Hodges hit out at St Michael's Primary School in Bishop Middleham, near Ferryhill, after his children, 5 and 6, were forced to stay away for two weeks. 

Mr Hodges, who is a key worker, was told by school staff that he had "broken the rules," despite explaining why he couldn't drop his children off due to work commitments. 

An email seen by The Echo from the school confirmed only parents were being allowed to 'drop off and pick up' pupils during the pandemic. 

It also said: "This avoids the mixing of bubbles and ensures that we are protecting everyone in school.

"This has not changed since the beginning of lockdown and is explained in all correspondence sent home."

But Mr Hodges has been left angered by the school's actions, saying five nearby schools confirmed they had not heard of such policies.

He said: "Around two-and-a-half weeks ago we got a phone call from the school saying we need to come and collect the kids immediately as 'you have broken' the rules.

"The head of the school said the children aren't going to be allowed to attend school for two weeks.

"I called five local schools who confirmed these policies were severe and had not heard of such policies."

Mr Hodges claimed that despite explaining that he was unable to drop off his children, he was told that his employer should be "more flexible" around drop-off times.

He said: "It was heartbreaking. My daughter broke down when I told her she couldn't go back to school – it's been really awful."

He said his partner, who is a nurse, had to take unpaid leave to look after both children during the period and warned of problems in the future.

He said: “My main concern going forward is that the school will insist that parents can only drop their children off.

"This policy will affect so many parents and it is going to clash with fines.

“The school has put all these obstacles in the way when they should be trying to help.

"Our local school excluded our two children for 14 days," he added.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said its guidance does not place requirements on who accompanies pupils to be dropped off at school.

It said the decision to exclude a pupil must be lawful, reasonable and fair and said it is 'not appropriate' to exclude a pupil because of the actions of their parents.

But defending the school's actions, Beth Dawson, Head of School at St Michael’s Primary School, said it was "disappointing" to hear Mr Hodges concerns.

She said: “The safety, welfare and wellbeing of all of our pupils is always our priority and, as such, we have been working extremely hard to ensure we have followed government guidelines. 

"Based on our understanding of these guidelines and the advice given to us, the children were asked to stay away for 14 days because of mixing of housing; and alternative provision was made for their learning.

“We fully understand the difficulties that parents, particularly those who are key workers, face when trying to organise childcare. 

"We have always tried to be flexible and to work with families, so it is disappointing for us that Mr Hodges has concerns. 

"We have been in regular contact with the Department for Education on this matter and it has advised us that it now considers it closed.”