Oxfordshire County Council has agreed to apologise to a teenager and her family and pay them more than £2,000 after she missed months of schooling during her GCSEs because it did not find her a secondary school place, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has said.
The girl spent 14 months without formal education after she left her school because of anxiety and other mental health problems.
The council said it could not force schools in its area to admit the girl because they were academies, and the special school the girl’s parents wanted her to attend said it could not admit her without her being on roll at one of the academies.
The Ombudsman’s investigation found the council delayed finding a school for the girl and should have required the special school to admit her without being on roll at an academy, as it had the power to do so.
The girl is now receiving home tuition, and support from mental health services, but has had to halve the number of GCSEs she will be sitting.
Ombudsman Michael King said:
“Councils have a duty to provide alternative education to children who are out of school for whatever reason. In this case Oxfordshire County Council left a vulnerable teenager without any education at a crucial time in her schooling.
“I welcome the steps the council is now taking to improve its services to children out of school.”
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s role is to remedy injustice and share learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services. In this case the council has agreed to keep the daughter’s educational provision under review to ensure the number of hours tuition she is currently receiving is a suitable level of support.
It will also pay the daughter £2,400 for the significant loss of education at an important time in her school life. It will apologise to her parents and pay them a further £500 for the distress and anxiety it caused them.
The council will also show how it will work with the family to ensure the daughter receives appropriate education when she begins her A levels.
The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council will carry out an audit of children missing from education for whom it has a statutory duty to provide suitable full-time education, and submit its findings to the relevant committee.
Article date: 25 July 2019