The complainant (Mr C) is the father of a young person (referred to in this report as Mr A) who had recognised special educational needs and attended a mainstream secondary school (the School) in the area of Scottish Borders Council (the Council). After bullying incidents at the School he suffered acute clinical depression (ACD). The complaint made by Mr C related to how the Educational Psychology Service of the Council dealt with Mr A thereafter. Mr C considered the Council had failed to implement their duties under the education legislation. He then sought the intervention of the Scottish Executive Education Department (SEED) and was aggrieved at SEED's reasons for not exercising their default powers.
Specific complaints and conclusions
The complaints which have been investigated are that:
- (a) the Council failed in their duty under the Standards in Scotland's Schools etc Act 2000, with regard to Mr A's educational needs following an episode of ACD (no finding);
- (b) the Council failed to ensure good professional management and to follow advice on good practice guidelines (not upheld);
- (c) the Council failed to disclose a prior 'gentleman's agreement' whereby an adolescent mental health unit rather than the Council's Educational Psychology Service took a lead role (upheld);
- (d) the Council abrogated their duties and responsibilities as education authority without notifying Mr and Mrs C or Mr A (not upheld);
- (e) an educational psychologist was directed by her line manager, for specious reasons, not to attend meetings at the School on 6 March 2003 (not upheld);
- (f) the Council's replies to Mr C's correspondence failed to answer his specific questions (not upheld);
- (g) in handling Mr C's formal complaint, the Chief Executive rewrote the complaint and failed to answer detailed points (not upheld);
- (h) the Chief Executive's response of 27 January 2004 to a request from SEED for information contained misleading statements and factual inaccuracies (not upheld);
- (i) SEED rewrote his letter of complaint to them of 30 September 2003 and failed to address all the issues (partially upheld);
- (j) SEED repeatedly failed to answer specific questions posed of them (not upheld);
- (k) SEED failed to address or explain why they did not deal with alleged breaches in duties detailed under the Standards in Scotland's Schools etc Act 2000 (partially upheld);
- (l) SEED failed to take appropriate action when informed of Mr C's concerns about factual inaccuracies in the Council's Chief Executive's response to them of 27 January 2004 (not upheld); and
- (m) SEED failed to answer questions posed by Mr C and passed their reply off as being substantive (not upheld).
Redress and recommendations
The Ombudsman recommends that the Council should give consideration to ensuring a more formal approach is adopted in informing and consulting with parents of children in future like circumstances, and particularly where there has been a significant absence from school.
The Council have accepted the recommendations and will act on them accordingly.
With reference to SEED, the Ombudsman makes no recommendation on the basis that they have advised her that instructions have been issued to avoid a recurrence of matters where the complaint was partially upheld. However, she suggests that SEED may wish to take steps to ensure that their policy and practice in relation to exercising their default powers is fully publicised.