Girl with SEND misses five terms waiting for EHC plan

Autistic pupil loses a year and a half of school while waiting for an Education, Health and Care plan, ombudsman finds

Catherine Lough

Coronavirus: We cannot overlook the needs of autistic students when we reopen colleges and schools, writes Viv Berkeley

An autistic pupil missed "five and a half terms'" worth of schooling because of council delays over her Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC plan).

The girl was diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder in 2015, and her anxiety over attending her mainstream school led her to refuse to attend.

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Derby City Council should have provided the girl with alternative education on her sixth day of absence, according to a Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman's report published today.

But instead, the council only started an EHC needs assessment in January 2017, issuing the final plan in 2018.

The council claimed that it did not have a duty to provide alternative education for the girl until the EHC was completed.

This meant that the girl did not access any education for a period of 18 months.

Pupil with SEND left without a school

The girl's mother complained to the council and then the ombudsman about the delayed EHC plan.

The ombudsman found that the council had taken too long to issue the plan, and had taken too long to contact schools about finding the girl an alternative place. 

The ombudsman also criticised the council for not providing the girl with alternative education while she was out of school.

Michael King, the local government ombudsman, said: “Because of the council’s delays, this girl was out of education for five and a half terms – time that will be difficult for her to claw back.

“I am concerned the council has argued its duty to make alternative provision did not arise until it had completed an EHC needs assessment, when, in fact, guidance states that it should have been in place from the sixth day of her absence.

“I hope the training the council has agreed to complete with all staff dealing with special educational needs provision will help to ensure the correct procedures are widely recognised and such significant errors are not repeated in future.”

The council has agreed to pay the child £7,200 for the time at school she missed without any special educational provision. It will also pay the mother £500 for her distress and a further £675 for the cost of an occupational therapy report.

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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