A council has agreed to pay a teenage boy nearly £20,000 after its failings led to him missing out on more than three years of full-time education, the local government watchdog said.
The boy, who is now 15, left school in December 2015 after experiencing problems and did not complete a full week’s education until March 2020, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found.
Sheffield City Council provided him with alternative education from an unregistered provider but he did not receive proper formal schooling for the 18 months this was in place, the report said.
The boy started secondary school in September 2015 but left in December the same year, with the school providing an alternative education on a reduced timetable between January and July 2016.
Between September 2016 and April 2018, the council put in place a provider who was not registered as “educational provision” and the boy’s learning involved working towards a qualification, basic science, working at a pet shop and visits to car showrooms.
The boy started at a new school in May 2018, and gradually increased his attendance to his first full week in March 2020.
The boy’s mother told the Ombudsman her son’s education had been “severely affected” by the council’s failures and that her son had self-harmed and attempted suicide.
Faults found by the ombudsman included an “excessive delay” in the council finding the boy a school place and not meeting his entitlement to a full-time education.
This meant he missed out on a “lengthy period of secondary education” which is “likely to have a severe impact on his educational achievement at secondary level and beyond”.
The report also found that it took the council around two years to issue an education, health and care plan (EHCP) for the boy and another four months to provide a copy to the boy’s mother.
There were also issues with the provision of transport and free school meals and the way it communicated with the boy’s mother and dealt with her complaints.
The ombudsman said the council has agreed to apologise to the boy and his mother and pay the boy £19,950 for his missed education over 43 months between January 2016 and September 2019.
It has also been asked to pay the boy’s mother £1,517 compensation for the time and trouble in making her complaint, the “avoidable distress” and lost school meal entitlement.
Ombudsman Michael King said: “While this case is an extreme example, it serves as a stark reminder of what can happen when councils get things wrong and the devastating effect this has on children’s education and well-being and their families who are left to pick up the strain.”
The Ombudsman said it was not certain that action the council says it has taken has fully resolved the “significant issues of systemic concern” and the council therefore cannot be sure that similar problems do not exist around other children and young people receiving alternative education.
It recommended that the council should immediately review all alternative provision.