Summary: Mr and Mrs X complained that the Council failed to provide alternative education for their son (B) who was unable to attend school for medical reasons.
The Ombudsman upheld the complaint and found fault causing injustice.
The Council has agreed to:
- apologise to Mr and Mrs X for the faults which we have identified and make a payment of £1,000 to recognise their avoidable distress over a prolonged period and a payment of £250 for their time and trouble in pursuing their complaint;
- make a payment of £500 to be used by Mr and Mrs X for B’s educational benefit for the failure to initially take prompt and decisive action with regards to B’s non-attendance at his primary school (School Z);
- make a payment of £1,800 to be used by Mr and Mrs X for B’s educational benefit for the lack of education between April and July 2019; and
- make a payment of £2,500 to be used by Mr and Mrs X for B’s educational benefit for the limited home tuition between September 2019 and July 2020 (£700) and for the three month period of when there was no alternative provision (mid-January to May 2020) (£1,800).
In respect of the Council’s alternative education procedures, the Council should within three months of the date of this report:
- review its procedures for deciding the reasons for a pupil’s non-school attendance, consider having a named officer with responsibility for this and to have a clear timetable for such decisions and the action to be taken by the Council to address the problem;
- review and amend its approach to alternative education to ensure that pupils out of school for medical reasons receive appropriate suitable education, preferably full time, unless there are reasons why this would not be in the pupil’s best interests. The policy review should be ratified by the Council’s relevant Committee, responsible for the oversight of educational provision in its area;
- ensure that its revised procedures allow medical evidence from a range of professionals and also covers cases where a child is out of school under the ‘otherwise’ alternative education criteria;
- ensure that its alternative education revised policy considers its equality duties and that pupils entitled to alternative education receive this regardless of whether they are engaging in a ‘treatment’ plan;
- consider increasing its supply of home tuition services so that it can meet the demand for full time alternative education for pupils unable to attend school;
- ensure that the Medical Needs Service provide a clear rationale for the number of hours of home tuition offered, in keeping with the educational needs of the pupil, and that this is kept under review;•
- invite Mr and Mrs X to make suggestions about how the Council’s ‘Local Offer’ (which provides information on its website about its services for pupils with special educational needs) could be improved; and
- review all its cases of pupils out of school (for whatever reason) since March 2019 to March 2020 (the start of lockdown) to ensure that the faults identified in this case have not occurred in other cases and, if they have, the Council should seek to remedy the injustice caused to the child without parents/carers having to make a formal complaint.
Ombudsman satisfied with Council's response: 11 November 2021.