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Ombudsman issues warning on alternative schooling

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Some councils do not properly understand their duties to in relation to children who are not in school, while others ignore their responsibilities, according to the Local Government Ombudsman.

New report Out of school…out of mind? looks at lessons learned from complaints made by parents whose children are not in school and highlights misconceptions from councils.

Among them were: a belief that no action was required because a child was not ill and had not been excluded from school there was no duty to provide alternative education provision for them; the understanding that it was acceptable to provide a minimum of five hours of education a week for particular children; and a failure to make interim arrangements when there is a delay in organising provision.

Local Government Ombudsman and Acting Chair of the Commission for Local Administration in England Jane Martin said the government’s clarification earlier this month that councils had to provide full-time education for youngsters not in school was “a helpful development”.

“It can be really serious for a child if they don’t get the opportunity of a good education,” she said.

“They can struggle to get qualifications and find it harder to get work.

“The law is clear that all children should get an education that is suitable to their needs – and that includes those who for special reasons are not going to school. But too often we find they are the victims of injustice.

“Councils need to understand what commonly goes wrong and learn from good practice.

“Otherwise, more children will miss out.

“We know that councils will want to get this right and we want to help them.”

Dr Martin said councils needed to be aware that they may need to act even if a child was on a school roll.

She added that they should also adopt a strategic approach to integrating children back into school where possible.

See file at right to read the full report.

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