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London Borough of Barnet (19 012 183)

Category : Education > School exclusions

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 09 Jan 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not consider this complaint about a permanent exclusion. This is because there is no evidence of fault in the way that the Independent Review Panel (IRP) which reviewed the decision to exclude, made its decision.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I refer to here as Miss J, says that:
    • Her son’s school should not have permanently excluded him;
    • The School did not put her son on the Special Education Needs (SEN) register and did not put appropriate interventions into place to re-empt any exclusion; and
    • The IRP reviewing the matter did not consider the SEN evidence properly or take proper account of the evidence of the SEN expert.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints of injustice caused by ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
  2. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe it is unlikely we would find fault. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information provided by Miss J and by the Council. I have also sent Miss J a draft decision for her comments.

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What I found

  1. Miss J’s son, S, had a series of fixed term exclusions at his school, followed by a permanent exclusion. Miss J appealed the permanent exclusion to the School’s governing body, but the governing body upheld it.
  2. Miss J then asked for a review of the decision from an IRP.
  3. The IRP upheld the permanent exclusion and Miss J complained about its decision to the Ombudsman as she says it did not take into account the evidence from the SEN expert at the hearing. She believes that the School did not recognise S’s SEN, and that if it had provided appropriate SEN support, he would not have been excluded.
  4. I have considered the records of the review hearing.
  5. The IRP cannot reinstate the child. Its outcomes are limited to upholding the decision, recommending that the governing body reconsiders its decision, or quashing the decision directing the governing body to reconsider.
  6. The decisions that it has to make, to arrive at one of those outcomes, are whether the governing body acted illegally, irrationally, or with procedural impropriety. In the absence of these faults, the IRP must uphold the exclusion.
  7. In this case, from the record of the hearing, it is clear that when the IRP says in its decision letter that it took into account all of the evidence presented, this includes that of the SEN expert. It explains its views fully in the letter. Its conclusion does not contradict the view of the SEN expert that S has SEN, but says that the school did use appropriate strategies to try to meet his needs, and was planning to implement further strategies once it had the assessment results from CAHMS.
  8. It then considered whether the School’s decision to exclude as a response to the more serious behaviour displayed by S was none the less lawful. The decision letter covers its formal decisions in respect of each of the three tests outlined above.
  9. The LGSCO cannot re-make the IRP’s decision. We cannot challenge the merits of a decision that has been properly made. I have seen no evidence of fault in the way the IRP made its decision to uphold the exclusions

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Final decision

  1. I will not investigate this complaint. This is because there is no evidence of fault in the way the IRP made its decision.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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