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Worcestershire County Council (18 009 584)

Category : Education > Special educational needs

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 22 Aug 2019

Summary: Mrs X complains about the Council’s failure to make alternative educational provision for her son, Y, for more than a year when he was out of school. The Council agreed with Y’s school’s approach in excluding him informally in breach of the School Exclusions Code 2017. It also failed to make educational provision for him for more than a year, or to meet his special educational needs, or to update his Education Health and Care Plan. This meant Y lost out on education he needed. Although delays by the Council in dealing with Mrs X’s complaint were only slight, the Council’s corporate complaints procedure lacks timescales and has the potential to cause injustice to future complainants by delay.

Finding

The Ombudsman upheld the complaint and found fault causing injustice.

Recommendations

To remedy the injustice caused by fault, the Council has agreed to: 

  • apologise to Mrs X for failing to provide education or make the special educational needs (SEN) provision in Y’s Education Health and Care (EHC) Plan between December 2017 and February 2019, and for failing to update his EHC Plan;
  • pay Mrs X £4,200 to use for Y’s benefit. This reflects his loss of education and SEN provision during a period of three and a half school terms at £1,200 a term; and
  • issue an up-to-date draft EHC Plan for Y if it has not already done so.

To prevent a recurrence of fault, the Council will remind all its relevant staff within one month of the date of this report that:

  • all informal school exclusions are illegal. The Council should not advise schools to carry them out and should remind schools that carry them out that they are illegal; and where a child with an EHC Plan is out of education, the Council should carry out an emergency review of the EHC Plan and record it as such. It should then amend the EHC Plan as necessary and write to the parent advising them of their right to appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Tribunal against its decision.

To reduce the potential for injustice to future complainants, the Council will review its corporate complaints policy within three months of the date of this report to ensure that:

  • the procedure normally takes no longer than 12 weeks to complete; and
  • there is a timescale for each stage.

Ombudsman satisfied with Council's response: 9 December 2019.

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