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Mrs A complained that Wrexham County Borough Council (“the Council”), in its role as the local education authority (“LEA”) failed to properly consider, assess and identify her son, B’s, special educational needs (“SEN”). Mrs A said the LEA failed to consider whether B’s SEN would be better provided for by a statutory assessment. Mrs A considered that the Extended School Action Plus Agreement (“ESAP”) issued by the LEA for B was not monitored and the LEA failed to ensure that his school provided the support specified under that Agreement. Mrs A complained that the Council failed to properly handle her complaint about the LEA.

The investigation found that ESAP Agreements are not referred to, or recognised, either as part of a graduated approach or as an alternative to statutory assessment in any of the LEA’s information, procedures and/or its published policies for SEN provision. The Ombudsman concluded that in B’s case an ESAP Agreement, as an alternative to statutory assessment, was not a legitimate means of meeting B’s SEN. The LEA’s policy was clear when B’s school based interventions were insufficient to meet his SEN requirements, B should have been considered for a statutory assessment. The Ombudsman was concerned about the LEA’s use of ESAP Agreements as an alternative to statutory assessment.

The LEA argued that B’s ESAP Agreement was on a par with an SEN Statement but the investigation concluded this was not the case. Further, the ESAP Agreement issued by the LEA was only in place for a two week period during which B attended school on significantly reduced hours. As such the ESAP provision was not met by the LEA.

The Ombudsman upheld Mrs A’s complaint and concluded that the LEA failed to assess and identify B’s SEN and failed to provide B with the appropriate support to meet his identified needs. The Ombudsman upheld Mrs A’s complaint about the way the Council handled her complaint, although the Council had subsequently made changes to its complaint management procedure to avoid a recurrence of the situation.

The Ombudsman recommended the Council apologise to Mrs A and provide redress of £350 for Mrs A’s time and trouble in pursuing a complaint. It was also recommended that the Council identify and instruct an independent educational specialist to review educational provision to B; the Council review it’s published SEN Policy; and the Council audit the ESAP Agreements currently in place to consider whether statutory assessments should be carried out in accordance with its SEN Policy.

A full copy of the report is available below.