William Eichler 20 August 2021

Council to review alternative education policy after investigation

Council to review alternative education policy after investigation image

Manchester children who were out of education before the first national lockdown are to have their cases reviewed following an investigation of the city council.

The review is part of a number of changes recommended by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman after its investigation found problems in how the council handled the case of a boy who was not able to attend school because he was medically unfit.

The Ombudsman found the council did not provide education for the boy, who has complex needs causing certain behavioural and learning difficulties, after he formally stopped attending school in early April 2019. His grandmother, who has parental responsibility for him, said the boy was being bullied and his health and special educational needs were not being met.

The Ombudsman found the council should have provided alternative education from the end of April when the boy’s GP confirmed he was medically not fit to attend, until it named a special school in his final Education and Health Care (EHC) plan in mid-August 2019.

‘At the heart of this case is a grandmother caused unnecessary distress by the council’s poor practice. It decided her grandson’s mainstream school was suitable, despite all evidence from healthcare professionals that it was not. When it did recognise the school was not suitable, it still maintained it was suitable until it found an alternative,’ said Ombudsman’s Michael King.

‘This is yet another case of councils failing to provide alternative education for children who are out of school through no choice of their own. That we are upholding more than four out of five investigations in similar circumstances, points to serious systemic problems affecting some of the most vulnerable children.’

A spokesperson for Manchester City Council said: ‘We accept the findings of the Ombudsman and have already undertaken a review of our Section 19 policy and put in place a new policy which will be implemented from September.

‘As agreed with the Ombudsman we're also in the process of reviewing the cases of other pupils who were out of education between April 2019 and the start of the first national lockdown.’

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