Supporting Families
Monday, 04 October 2010 13:10

Work of the Local Government Ombudsman KOS, September 2010

Many parents contact me about education complaints to the Local Government Office (LGO), or Ombudsman as it is usually called.  Whilst I offer a professional service, most people submit their own complaints and the LGO will follow these through.

However, there are two major changes in the work of the LGO which are not widely known, but may affect many families from this September.

Historically the LGO deals with complaints about school admissions and appeals, permanent exclusions (expulsions) and some aspects of Special Education Needs. Since Easter in Medway (a pilot area) the LGO has been able to consider complaints about schools affecting individual children. Sadly, although Kent was also to be a pilot from September, government has recently scrapped this proposal.

The second change is that because the LGO is unable to consider complaints about academies, the number of schools in Kent and Medway they cover is falling rapidly with a third of Kent secondary schools soon to be out of Local Government control, a proportion that will rise further when all schools become eligible to apply.

For admissions, appeals and permanent exclusions a complaint will not be upheld just because you disagree with the decision;  there has to be maladministration (not following the rules) to the extent there may have been a wrong decision.  In such cases, you have to follow the laid down processes first so, for admission issues you must first go to an Independent Appeal Panel. For Permanent Exclusions you need to go first to a Governors Appeal then an Independent Appeal Panel.  You are not entitled to see the official notes of these meetings before you complain, which is one of the difficulties as evidence often lies buried within them; however the Ombudsman will pick up any issues on your behalf.  For complaints about schools relating to your child you first need to follow the school complaints procedure through to the end, an often difficult and tortuous process as many schools will resist.

Ombudsman cases often take two months or more to resolve, my longest being eight months!   For admission and exclusion appeals, the likeliest outcome if you win your complaint is a fresh appeal in front of a different panel where you can be turned down again.  It is difficult to comment on Special Needs cases, as they differ widely, but the norm is to ensure proper support is provided for the child if this has been neglected.

At present there are few LGO complaints about schools, but  I have my concerns about how effective such complaints will be because of time scales – settling a complaint about bullying two months after following through a complaints procedure does not appear effective.  I would be very interested to learn of good outcomes for families.

However, many complaints to the Ombudsman do bring positive results where there are sufficient grounds and your first port of call should be to the official website - www.lgo.org.uk.

Last modified on Sunday, 22 April 2012 16:27

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