Norfolk County Council (18 003 453)

Category : Education > Special educational needs

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 31 Oct 2018

Summary: Mrs X complains about the Council’s failure to provide her son with suitable education provision and delay in issuing his Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan.

Finding

The Ombudsman upheld the complaint and found fault causing injustice.

Recommendations

The Council should take the following action to remedy the injustice we have  identified:

  • pay the family £3,500 to recognise the injustice caused as a result of the education Y missed and the time and trouble Mrs X was put to pursuing a school place. The Council should also pay Mrs X £400 for the cost of commissioning her own dyslexia report;
  • write to the family to apologise for the Council’s failure to secure suitable education for Y when he was excluded;
  • Y’s EHC Plan says “provision of a suitable laptop should be considered” to assist Y typing notes in class. To remedy the injustice caused to Y as a result of missing out on education a suitable laptop should be provided along with other technological assistance identified in his EHC Plan (e.g. voice activated software etc.). This should be provided separate to any funding allocated for delivering support identified in Y’s EHC Plan; and
  • if an assessment by an educational psychologist identifies that Y requires further support or services in his EHC Plan the Council should consider if additional sessions can be provided for at least two full terms. If this is not possible then the Council should consider paying a further financial remedy to the family. Any further financial remedy should be agreed by us.

The Council should take this action within three months of the date of this report.

We note the Council has had issues with high rates of exclusions and availability of alternative education provision for at least the past two years. The Council says it is trying to secure more spaces in “short stay schools”. However, this is only one option for alternative education provision and the Council should ensure it has a range of options available to school age children in its area depending on their needs.

In July 2017, we recommended the Council review provision of alternative education in its area. Clearly the Council is still experiencing difficulties with alternative education arrangements.

The Council should now carry out an audit of children missing from education for whom it has a statutory duty to provide suitable full-time education under s.19 Education Act 1996 to ensure the following:

  • children are receiving suitable education;
  • provision is not being withheld or restricted due to resources; and where a child is receiving less than full-time education there is medical evidence to support that this is the maximum amount of education they can access.

Officers should submit the findings of the audit to the relevant Children’s or Education Scrutiny Committee together with advice about whether the Council is complying with its statutory duties and has adequate commissioning arrangements and resources in place.

The Council should provide us with evidence the audit has been completed and discussed by Members at a relevant meeting (for example the minutes of the meeting) within six months of this report being issued.

The Council has agreed to our recommendations. The Council has also set out a range of actions it is currently taking to review and improve education provision in its area. We are satisfied these actions are in line with our recommendations and we will ask the Council to provide evidence it has carried these out. We welcome the Council’s positive agreement to our recommendations, its constructive commitment to provide a remedy for the complainant and implement the wider service improvements we have suggested for the future. We will share our final decision with Ofsted. If the Council’s audit identifies systemic fault we may also notify this fact to Ofsted to inform its future inspections of the Council.

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