West Sussex County Council (17 013 219)

Category : Education > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 21 Feb 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman cannot investigate this complaint about the way a school handled a disciplinary matter relating to the complainant’s son. This is because complaints about the management of schools are out of the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I refer to here as Mr C, says that:
    • The School which his son attended dealt inappropriately with him through its disciplinary process, and did not consider his son’s special needs relating to autism;
    • The School has not investigated the complaint properly; and
    • The Council has not investigated the complaint properly or provided the explanations that Mr C asked for.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
  2. We cannot investigate complaints about what happens in schools. (Local Government Act 1974, Schedule 5, paragraph 5(b), as amended)
  3. In court proceedings, a judge has ruled that the Ombudsman cannot investigate a complaint about any action by a local authority concerning conduct within a school. (R (oao M) v Commissioner for Local Administration [2006] EQHC 2847 (Admin))

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information provided by the complainant, and I sent him an initial view for his comments.

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What I found

  1. Mr C’s son was subject to disciplinary action at his School. Mr C felt that the disciplinary process was badly handled, that staff did not consider his son’s particular needs relating to his autism, and that this amounted to discrimination.
  2. Mr C had complained to the School and to the Council, and says that neither has investigated his complaints properly.
  3. The Ombudsman is unable to consider the actions of the School. The 1974 Local Government Act, which established the office of the Local Government Ombudsman specifically excludes complaints about the management of schools from our remit. Additionally the Ombudsman may not consider any complaints about Academies.
  4. Any complaint about this matter would need to be made to the School governors, and, if Mr C remains dissatisfied, to the Education Funding and Skills Agency.
  5. The Ombudsman is also unable to consider the actions of the Council in relation to the complaint. This is because case law has established that we cannot look into complaints about the Council’s handling of matters that are themselves out of our jurisdiction.
  6. Although we can generally consider how councils have carried out their duties with regard to the provision of Special Educational Needs and the delivery of Education and Health Care Plans, in this case we are unable to do so as the School is an Academy.
  7. In addition, at the time of the events complained of, Mr C’s son did not have an EHCP. The Council has since agreed to assess him.

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Final decision

  1. I cannot investigate this complaint as the actions complained of are out of the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction as they relate to the management of a school.

Investigator’s final decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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