Councils must have oversight of transition planning for all pupils with SEN, says Ombudsman

Councils should be aware of their responsibilities for transition planning for young people with Special Educational Needs the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has said.

Whether young people are educated independently or by the local authority, councils have a duty to ensure that teenagers in Years 9 to 11 have the proper plans in place to allow them to move on to post-16 education once they leave school.

A new investigation report highlights a case where Milton Keynes Council failed to plan properly for the further education of a privately-educated teenager, who had a statement of special educational needs (SEN). This left him without full-time education for 12 months.

As a consequence of this lack of support, the teenager applied for unsuitable sixth-form placements where, with guidance, he should have applied for college vocational courses. This meant that by the time he got his GCSE results there were no suitable places left for him to study at college.

Despite the council’s SEN team working to remedy the situation, the teenager has been left without formal education for an academic year, causing stress and strain on the family.

Dr Jane Martin, Local Government Ombudsman, said:

“Keeping good records and following statutory guidance properly will help to avoid pupils with Special Educational Needs missing out on important transitional planning, as happened in this case.

“Milton Keynes Council made efforts to address the situation once it became apparent, but many opportunities had been missed to ensure the young man had the right support at the right time. However I am pleased to see the council has agreed to my recommendations, and has announced further plans to ensure this situation should not reoccur.”

To remedy the complaint, the LGO recommended the council apologises to the mother and her son.

The council should also review its procedures to ensure that all pupils in years 9 to 11 with statements of special educational needs or education, health and care plans have Transition Plans in place and that these are reviewed as required and appropriate support is provided to pupils.

The LGO has also recommended the council pays the teenager £3,000 in recognition of his loss of opportunity and frustration caused by the postponement of his education. It should also pay the mother £500 in recognition of the distress caused by the strain on family relationships associated with her son being out of education and training for the period.

Milton Keynes Council has accepted the LGO’s recommendations. It has also said it will review its procedures with a view to setting up an assurance system for annual reviews including a check that transition plans have been included in annual review paperwork.

The council will also produce a good practice guide for school personnel to explain their role and responsibility in transition planning for young people with special educational needs or education, health and care plans. It will also ensure that transition plans for young people with particularly complex needs are supported by a guidance advisor.

Article date: 05 November 2015