Council forced to pay £2,000 for failing to find school for autistic child

council forced to pay 2000 for failing to find school for autistic child - Council forced to pay £2,000 for failing to find school for autistic child

Gloucestershire County Council was forced to pay £2,000 to a child with special educational needs after failing to provide education for him.

The authority also had to pay £300 to his mother for stress caused by events.

The Local Government Ombudsman found the child, named N, has an education health and care plan (EHC), and is autistic with associated learning difficulties.

The watchdog said the child’s mother, named Mrs M, complained the county council failed to put in place alternative educational provision when she kept her son out of school for more than three months.

It added that there is evidence of fault and the county council had been asked to apologise, make a payment and change its procedures.

Mrs M removed her child from school after N alleged he had been “assaulted by a teacher”. A police investigation however found the was no criminal intent.

The authority said it “actively worked the family to reintegrate the pupil” and gave extra money for extra support when N returned to school.

The Local Government Ombudsman announced its conclusion on October 19, 2018.

WHAT HAPPENED

On September 6, 2016, N came home from school claiming he had been assaulted by a teacher. Mrs M then emailed the headteacher asking what had happened.

Mrs M said the response, received on September 10, was “insufficient” as it did not give the full detail of the incident.

According to the report, because of this, and because it was not the first time this had happened to N at school, Mrs M decided N was “not safe” at school and said she should keep him at home.

Mrs M added she wanted to keep him home until she could uncover the exact details of the event.

On September 12, having sought independent advice, she made a complaint to the governing body of the school and involved the police.

From September 12 to 28, the school provided work for N, which Mrs M says N completed and returned.

The police explained to Mrs M on October 1 that there had been no serious assault.

The report said: “A teacher had put her hand up to block N from walking to his desk and had shouted at him and held onto his shoulder with her other hand.

“The police’s view was this had ‘broken the rules of engagement’ as far as N was concerned, it was also not in line with the requirements of N’s EHC plan or personal profile, but there was no criminal intent.”

As a result, Mrs M felt N should go back to school, and had taken him there on October 3.

The headteacher allegedly told Mrs M that none of N’s staff were prepared to teach him and did not want him to return except if he had 2:1 support, the report said.

The document added the headteacher reportedly said no one “trusted” the family and that Mrs M should find another school for N.

Mrs M said she did not want N to change schools, because he was not able to cope well with change and the school was named on his EHC plan. Mrs M wanted him to come back to school as soon as possible.

On October 17, a governors meeting took place and they hoped N could soon return to school soon. The headteacher acknowledged he had not handled the matter well.

An emergency review of N’s EHC plan followed on October 19, but this did not facilitate N moving back into school.

The headteacher reportedly said the school could only have N return with 2:1 support, the report said.

The Council’s Panel met on October 26, and expressed concern about the need for a 2:1.

Further meetings in November did not take this much further forward, and Mrs M felt she was left with no choice than to make a referral to the First Tier Tribunal in relation to disability discrimination.

The tribunal judge telephoned on December 13 and asked the school to do more to reintegrate N.

The child started back at school part-time on January 9 and full-time from January 16.

The report also said when Mrs M made complaints, she thought the county council responded late.

The watchdog’s complaint process found that the school was responsible for arranging education for N, rather than the county council, and that N had not been greatly affected by his prolonged absence from education.

The report added that Mrs M thought the investigating officer was not acting impartially as she chose not to contact her or N’s case worker.

WHAT SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED

The watchdog said the county council should have made suitable arrangements either at school or elsewhere, and this did not happen when it was aware that the education was not being received.

It added that the child should have also received the provision set out in the EHC plan where it was possible to do so.

The report said the county council could have identified another school, conducted an emergency review and changed the school names in N’s ECH plan.

The authority could also have decided to send N to a short-stay school, provided him with online teaching or provided a home tutor. The report found, however, the county council did not consider alternatives.

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT

The county council was ordered to pay £2,000 to N for the loss of service.

The authority was also told to pay the mother £300, for the stress and trouble she went through in the case.

WHAT THE COUNCIL SAID

A spokeswoman for Gloucestershire County Council said: “We place the greatest importance on supporting all children and young people and we will continue to work closely with schools and families to make sure that pupils do not experience disruption to their education.

“The council has a legal duty to try to meet the family’s preference, and in this case that was for the pupil to stay in his existing school.

“We actively worked with the school and the family to reintegrate the pupil and made additional funding available to meet the school’s request for increased support. We accept the Ombudsman’s findings and their recommendations have been acted upon.”

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