A complaint was made to the Ombudsman by Mrs A (anonymised) that Wrexham County Borough Council in its role as the local education authority (LEA) failed to properly consider, assess and identify her son, B’s, special educational needs.
In a public interest report, the Ombudsman found that the LEA “may have been overzealous in its drive to reduce Special Educational Needs (SEN) Statements and that it placed the onus on schools in its area to pursue alternatives to statutory
In the case of Mrs A’s son, the LEA issued a form of school-based provision called an Extended Action Plus Agreement (ESAP). ESAPs are not referred to or recognised in the LEA’s procedures or published policies and should not have been used as an alternative to a statutory assessment when it was clear that the ESAP
The Ombudsman concluded that B, who has social and communication difficulties and is visually impaired, was subject to a lengthy period without receiving appropriate education because of the LEA’s failings.
B has since undertaken a statutory assessment, after the complaint was made.
The council agreed to provide Mrs A with an apology and financial redress for the failings identified in its complaints handling. Amongst other recommendations; it also agreed to undertake an independent review of B’s case, review its current published Special Educational Needs policy, and audit any other ESAP agreements in place.
Nick Bennett, Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, said: “I’m extremely concerned that this pupil did not receive the support that he needed and the deep upset this has caused the child’s family.
“The fragmented approach to this child’s education is simply not good enough and I believe in this case he has been let down by the system in place.
“I am pleased that the council has agreed to my recommendations and is reviewing whether other pupils with ESAP agreements should undergo statutory assessments and consider whether the appropriate educational support is provided.
“My office will follow up these recommendations in the coming months to ensure they are complied with.”