South Yorkshire film row girl quits school

Disappointed: Abi Williams with her parents Nigel and Gill.
Disappointed: Abi Williams with her parents Nigel and Gill.
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SIXTH former Abi Williams has quit school - because her headteacher won’t let her take time off to perform on a TV show.

The talented 16-year-old is one of four pupils from McAuley Catholic High School at Cantley, Doncaster, who have been refused permission to have a few days away to be filmed for a CBBC Glee Club programme for Sport Relief next year.

Another is Rossington teenager Sallie Lax, one half of Britain’s Got Talent finalists 2Grand. The parents of the four girls are furious because McAuley was granted Specialist Performing Arts College status in 2003.

McAuley headteacher Catherine Brown said she felt the length of absence would impact on teaching and learning for Amy and others.

Doncaster choir Rainbow Connection and the director, Paul Mellors, said: “The programme is for Sport Relief Does Glee.

“Hundreds of groups across the country auditioned and our girls did a great audition in Leeds.

“Last month we found out they had been selected for the final 24 and would be filming for two days initially in February.

“Of all the 24 finalists from across the UK, only one school refused to give permission for its students to take part. We think this is an absolute disgrace and feel so disappointed for the girls.”

The other two McAuley girls who are not allowed to attend the filming are Abigail Robinson, 13, from Town Moor, and Liberty Haughan, 15, from Rossington.

Abi Williams’ father, Nigel, last night confirmed his daughter had notified the school she will not be returning after the Christmas break and will instead have private tuition to achieve her ambition of being a cruise ship performer when she reaches 18.

“Singing is Abi’s chosen career and she wants to go into performing,” he said. “She is extremely dedicated and was one of seven who were hand-picked to appear on this programme.

“We sent a letter to the school asking for no more than seven days off next term so they could be filmed and recorded in Glasgow and London, and the BBC said it might be only four days in total.

“I do not believe that would have been a problem for Abi’s education,” said Mr Williams.

The family, who live in South View, Austerfield, say they back Abi’s decision to leave McAuley “because they have been obstructive”.

Mr Williams added: “We had a family discussion and support her wholeheartedly. If the school is going to stop her fulfilling her dreams rather than encouraging them then she doesn’t want to be there.

“It will cost us an awful lot of money but it is purely a point of principle.”

The three other girls from Rainbow Connection who will be taking part are Gabrielle Burnell, from Don Valley School and Performing Arts College; Melanie Wildey, from Hungerhill School; and Savanna Darnell, from Dinnington Comprehensive School.

“The parents of the three whose schools did give consent wish to make it known how supportive and proud the headteachers were that one of their pupils had made it through to the televised stage of this production,” said Mr Williams.

Catherine Brown, headteacher at McAuley, told Mr Williams: “Although I fully appreciate your reasons for wanting to take Abigail out of school during term time, after careful consideration I do not feel I am able to authorise this request on this occasion.

“This decision has not been taken lightly and I do feel this length of absence from school would certainly impact on teaching and learning for both your child and others.

“I can appreciate any inconvenience this may cause but any absences during term time can affect the continuity of a child’s education and may be detrimental in the long term.”