Education

Lincolnshire County Council has been told to pay over £2,000 to a mother after failing to provide a “suitable education” for her daughter, who could not attend school due to health problems.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman said the council caused unnecessary distress, disadvantaged the daughter educationally, and a further £200 was paid for the “time, trouble and […] financial costs pursuing [the mother’s] complaint.”

The council was at fault for its failure to provide alternative education between October 2019 and February 2020 for the daughter, who had to leave school due to a medical condition that causes fatigue, anxiety, and panic attacks

The daughter’s school referred her to the council for alternatives as it couldn’t provide her with a suitable full-time education.

However, after screening, the council said she did not meet the criteria due to medical evidence not being robust enough to explain why she was too unwell to attend school. The council said it was in line with its policy.

In January 2020, after the mother showed the council a GP letter, it decided to reconsider referral for the daughter to go to a specialist school.

Denied again, the council asked for a more recent report from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), who had previously supported the daughter.

As a result, the mother complained to the council that her daughter hadn’t received an education since October 2019.

The council told the mother it made two requests to specialist schools and these were both refused, so they deemed the daughter’s absence from school unauthorised.

After receiving a warning about her daughter’s attendance from school, the mother sought the help of a solicitor who approached the council and said it was in breach of its duty to provide the daughter with an education.

The council considered the CAMHS report provided a month earlier and decided the daughter was eligible for a specialist school.

Since the report, the mother was happy with the support provided by the school.

The £2,000 is hoped to go to the “educational benefit to acknowledge the loss of education” and amounts to £400 for every month the daughter received no education.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman said: “Councils are responsible for providing education to children who cannot attend school by reason of illness, exclusion from school or otherwise may not for any period receive suitable education unless arrangements are made for them.”

The council have agreed to the recommendations.

Around 17% of children are attending school in Lincolnshire for face-to-face lessons this week due to the COVID-19 disruption and national lockdown restrictions, council bosses revealed.

This compares to November’s lockdown that saw over 90% of children attending in Lincolnshire — as schools were allowed to be open for all pupils, not just for essential workers’ children.

The third lockdown has delayed children going back to school after the Christmas holidays, only permitting vulnerable children and those of key workers to attend. All other children have to learn remotely until February half term.

In June 2020 when schools reopened after the first lockdown, it was estimated that 10-15% of children in Lincolnshire attended, with around 90% not in class for over three months.

Heather Sandy, executive director for children’s services, said: “Early indications are that around 17% of children are attending school for face-to-face lessons this week, although this varies significantly from school to school and in different age ranges.

“The well-being of local children is our priority, and we’ve provided training to schools, who offer pastoral support alongside online learning.

“Any concerned parents should contact their school in the first instance, but we do have a range of resources for emotional wellbeing that can accessed via the Family Services Directory on our website.

She added: “School is the best place for children to learn, but remote learning resources continue to improve.”

“In addition, once children return to school, they will again receive additional support, where needed, through the government-funded catch-up programmes. The support available should help to mitigate the impact of lockdown on students’ learning.”

Last year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson launched a “massive catch-up operation” which included £650 million being distributed to schools in order to support children affected by closures due to COVID-19.

The University of Lincoln will operate a new training programme with the Royal Navy to help teach people key expertise needed for the forces.

The university was announced as the academic partner of the Royal Navy’s training programme in a consortium led by Capita plc.

This will aim to offer modern, shore-based training to the navy and the Royal Marines, as well as providing a service with better qualified and experienced personnel.

Lincoln will support initial officer training from April 2021, delivering courses in maritime-related studies and social work, as well as accrediting modules in music.

It is hoped that this new scheme will increase efficiency in delivery, reduce redundant training aspects and minimise the amount of time lost from frontline work.

Former major general Julian Free CBE, deputy vice chancellor at the University of Lincoln, said: “Based in the bomber county of Lincolnshire, the university is proud to offer educational services to the military and we look forward to sharing our expertise working alongside the Royal Navy.

“We have been successfully delivering innovative work-based distanced learning programmes for a number of years, with curricula designed to fit around the busy schedule of Armed Forces personnel.

“Our experience with these programmes means we are well placed to deliver further specialist training to officers of the Royal Navy in a flexible way.”

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