The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mrs V complained the Council did not put enough alternative educational provision in place when her son could not attend school. After making alternative arrangements, she asked to withdraw her complaint. We agreed to discontinue our investigation.
- The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Mrs V, complains that her son (W) spent a long time out of school, because of his disabilities. The Council was aware of this from shortly after he stopped attending. But it did not ensure W received the amount and type of education he should have.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)
- We can decide whether to start or discontinue an investigation into a complaint within our jurisdiction. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 24A(6) and 34B(8), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- The information I have seen includes the documents Mrs V supplied with her complaint and the Council’s responses to our enquiries. I have discussed the complaint with Mrs V and considered later updates from her. I sent my draft decision to Mrs V and the Council and asked for comments.
What I found
Legal and administrative background
- The Education Act 1996 provides the basis for statutory guidance. This says education authorities must make suitable educational provision for children of compulsory school age who are absent from school because of illness, exclusion or otherwise. The provision can be at a school or elsewhere. But it must be suitable for the child’s age, ability and aptitude, including any special needs.
- W has been diagnosed with an autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder, which started after several infections. From the Spring of 2021, W has had problems attending school due to the effects of his disability.
- From around April 2021 the Council’s Education Welfare Service was aware of W’s intermittent attendance at school. And that his school had put him on a Reduced Education Provision Plan.
- Mrs V’s complaint was about the period after this. Her view was the provision the school put in place was not satisfactory and was not as set out in the Act and guidance (see paragraph 5). She said the Council should have done more.
- Mrs V exhausted the Council’s complaint procedure and then complained to the Ombudsman. We made enquiries. The Council responded to advise its view was the education W had received was equivalent to what he would have received in school.
- Mrs V continued to disagree with that view. But she later emailed me to advise that they had now arranged their own educational provision for W. So they wanted to withdraw their complaint.
- As we had not formed a view on whether the Council was at fault, I agreed to send a draft decision and invite comments.
- The Council agreed to my decision to discontinue my investigation. But it said, for clarity, it wanted me to note that it had made an offer for educational provision for W.
- I have discontinued my investigation.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman