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Southampton City Council (21 004 903)

Category : Education > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 10 Sep 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We cannot investigate Mrs X’s complaint about events inside a school. The law does not allow us to do so.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Mrs X, complains about how a school has dealt with a pupil, Z, and how the Council has replied to this complaint.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We cannot investigate complaints about what happens in schools. (Local Government Act 1974, Schedule 5, paragraph 5(b), as amended)
  2. The Courts have said that we cannot investigate a complaint about any action by a council, concerning a matter which is itself out of our jurisdiction. (R (on the application of M) v Commissioner for Local Administration [2006] EHWCC 2847 (Admin))
  3. The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint unless we are satisfied the Council knows about the complaint and has had an opportunity to investigate and reply. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to notify the Council of the complaint and give it an opportunity to investigate and reply. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(5))

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information provided by Mrs X and the Council.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.
  3. Mrs X had an opportunity to comment on a draft version of this decision.

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My assessment

  1. Mrs X complained to School Y about how it was handling a child she cares for, Z. This included:
    • bullying incidents,
    • injuries suffered at school,
    • the school’s management of Z’s allergies,
    • how School Y kept Z informed during lockdowns,
    • that Mrs X believes School Y discriminated against Z,
    • School Y removing Z from a milk list, and,
    • School Y wanting Z to read the same book repeatedly.
  2. Mrs X was unhappy with School Y’s reply to her complaint. She complained to Ofsted. It referred the complaint to the Council. It replied to her in early May 2021.
  3. Mrs X was unhappy with the Council’s reply and asked it to escalate it to an independent investigation. Mrs X says she heard no more.
  4. We cannot investigate how a school manages a pupil’s education, the behaviour of other pupils in the school or any pupil’s health issues. We also cannot investigate how a Council replies to a complaint made about these issues.
  5. Mrs X says the Council has refused to assess Z for an Education Health and Care Plan. We cannot investigate School Y’s decisions on this. It is within Mrs X’s power to personally ask for an assessment directly with the Council.
  6. Mrs X has made a recent referral to the Council’s child safeguarding unit. Mrs X needs to exhaust the Council’s complaint procedure before we could consider it.

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Final decision

  1. We cannot investigate this complaint. This is because we cannot investigate the internal management of a school.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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