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Complaint to the Secretary of State for Education

(79 Posts)
NameChangeMoaningMyrtle Sat 27-Jul-13 09:03:19

Has any one complained to the Secretary of State for Education under Section 497 of the Education Act 1996 about their LA acting unlawfully?

Any care to share their experiences of doing this?

Ineedmorepatience Sat 27-Jul-13 10:16:51

I did but not about the LA, I complained about a school.

I got a reply but it just said I hadnt followed the correct protocol for complaints and that I needed to write to Ofsted.

I wrote to Ofsted and guess what they said.... I hadnt followed the correct protocol for complaints so I needed to write to the Chair of Govenors at the school.

I hope you get on better than me, good luck smile

Lachanophobia Sat 27-Jul-13 11:50:45

I spoke to them about a school issue but was told to contact the LA. When I pointed out that the LA were complicit in enabling the school to act as they had I was told to contact the LGO. LGO say it's a school matter that they don't deal with. You just end up going round in circles with no-one wanting to take responsibility for helping you. Good luck.

NameChangeMoaningMyrtle Sat 27-Jul-13 14:14:09

My complaint will be because of a very clear breech of the Education Act (Schedule 27, Section 3A). So it looks as though I can complain under Section 497 - failure to fulfil a legal duty.

Looking at IPSEA's website, it looks as though I can also complain to the LA's Monitoring Officer too.

Ipsea - How to Complain

Because of this unlawful act, it also means that the LA did not comply with a specific paragraph of the SEN CoP . Can I complain to anyone about the LA not following the SEN CoP?

I don't hold out much hope with either 'body' taking my complaint seriously but I'll still give it a go. I have very clear indisputable evidence as to the breech.

WetAugust Sat 27-Jul-13 16:41:13

I complained directly to the Sec of State about my LA. I didn't even receive an acknowledgement.

NameChangeMoaningMyrtle Sat 27-Jul-13 17:34:49

WetAugust - Can I ask what specifically were you complaining about? I have a clear breach of the Education Act and lots of firm documentary evidence to support it. Having read everything on here, I'm not very hopeful anything will come of it. But I'm going to give it a go.

WetAugust Sun 28-Jul-13 11:26:36

Son had been forced out of mainstream as he had been bullied to the point where he had a breakdown. Medical advice stated he needed a residential placement.
LA refused to consider providing a specialist placement as he was 15 and in a few months he would be post statutory education age and therefore no longer their problem as the LS&C dealt with post-16 FE education. Had this in writing.

However the L&SC expected LAs to fund post-16 education for those children who already had a Statement (as mine did).
So my LA dragged its heels just waiting for my DS's 16th birthday.
Wrote directly to sec of State - got zero response.
Subsequently told by my MP (over another matter) that education is one of the issues that has been devolved by central govt to LAs. So central govt gets involved with education policy but would not get involved in individual cases as the frameworks for resolving these already existed either at local level or at SENDIST.

nennypops Sun 28-Jul-13 13:50:01

I suspect you'll be told to go through the LA's complaints procedure and if you're still not satisfied to complain to the Ombudsman.

NameChangeMoaningMyrtle Sun 28-Jul-13 21:12:18

Well, I've now written my letter to Sec of State and cc'd the Monitoring Officer of the LA and also my local MP. Have no idea if it'll have any impact.

This is not the LA's wrongly interpreting the Act but a clear breach of the Education Act. Namely that before a Proposed or Final Statement is issued which names a school in Part 4, the LA have to consult with the board of governors and serve the Statement on the school. The SEN CoP goes further and states that the LA should allow 15 working days for this consultation to take place.

But... My LA issued the Final Statement with the school named on it, then retrospectively consulted with a teacher (who isn't on the board of governors) and did not serve the complete Statement. It took this teacher precisely 9 minutes to decide that the school could support my DC. And the result of this illegal consultation (because the complete Statement wasn't served so the school didn't know they couldn't meet need) was that we had no alternative but to appeal and go to Tribunal.

I have indisputable documentary evidence of all of this. So just maybe someone will be interested. But then again, no-one probably will be...

WetAugust Sun 28-Jul-13 21:57:18

I wouldn't hold your breath!

Both Sec of State (if they bother to reply) and MP will tell you it's a Council matter. You'd have been better to have copied your Local Councillor.

Monitoring Officer will do nothing except monitor.

The correct process for complaining about this would have been to raise a Formal Complaint to the Chief Executive of your Council.

When you have fully exhausted all 3 stages of the Council's complaints procedures you can then complain to the Local Government Ombudsman arguing that by failing to follow education law, the LA is guilty of maladministration.

Whole process should take the best part of a year.

Good luck.

NameChangeMoaningMyrtle Sun 28-Jul-13 22:08:47

Thanks Wet. I'll change the Monitoring Officer to the Chief Exec - I wasn't sure which one to go for - IPSEA wasn't totally clear - the last thing I want is a vexatious accusation before I've even started so best I do the correct person! I did think of local councillor but there's no one I could find on first glance - so I will look again. Local MP has a personal interest in part of my DC's story - he probably won't do anything publicly but he will be extremely interested.

I'm under no illusion how long this will take. I can wait.

WetAugust Sun 28-Jul-13 22:16:44

Your Council should have a website that will list the councillors for your area.

Don't forget to mark it clearly FORMAL COMPLAINT

Good luck - everyone should complain when LAs are crap.

NameChangeMoaningMyrtle Sun 28-Jul-13 22:24:22

Yes, I've found the website. Should I try and find a councillor with an interest in Education? Or should I use my local area/region councillor?

Yes, it's marked all over FORMAL COMPLAINT grin I have spent many many years working with lawyers so know exactly how to be very explicit, business-like and unemotional in my letter and all the evidence. It's purely fact after fact.

Whatever happens with the complaint, it won't change what happened. An apology would be nice (but highly unlikely as that would be an admition of their guilt!) I expect nothing from it. And I don't think I'll be disappointed.

Thanks for your help.

WetAugust Sun 28-Jul-13 22:32:01

Send it to your local councillor. They will contact the councillor who looks after education matters if they think its necessary to do so. If you have a choice of 2 in your area pick the one who is not a member of the councils ruling political party i.e. if it's a Conservative run council, complain to your local Labour councillor etc.

What will happen next is that you should receive an acknowledgement of your complaint.

The people you are complaining about will then investigate themselves (Stage 1) and say nothing untoward has happened.

You need to dispute that and ask for the complaint to be elevated to Stage 2.

When Stage 2 determines the LA to be saintly you need to disagree and ask for Stage 3 review. You'll probably be asked at some stage 'What do you want', so it's useful to have thought that out e.g. the apology you mentioned in your post.

When Stage 3 says the LA employees should be beatified you're free to take the complaint to the LGO.

inappropriatelyemployed Sun 28-Jul-13 23:04:31

Good advice from Wet! Be warned not all LAs have a stage 3. Ours don't a don't want councillors to know!

nennypops Sun 28-Jul-13 23:10:21

At what point did the school decide they couldn't meet needs? Did you have to go right the way through to a hearing with your appeal?

WetAugust Sun 28-Jul-13 23:12:36

No Stage 3 - outrageous. You'd think the LA employees had something to hide wink

NameChangeMoaningMyrtle Sun 28-Jul-13 23:33:54

Thanks Wet. Your post did make me chuckle at the thought of my LA being made into saints!

It's very useful knowing the procedure - thank you. Ideally I would like a certain person's head presented to me on a silver platter (note to self, stop watching Sunday evening drama). Failing that, an apology will suffice with a ruling of meladministration.

Nennypops - yes it resulted in a full scale Tribunal (sorry I can't say anymore than that here)

WetAugust Mon 29-Jul-13 00:12:18

Good luck - and please keep us posted.

TOWIELA Wed 11-Sep-13 17:44:05

I am the OP - this is my "story". I had to name change because I wrote my post in the period between Tribunal and receiving the judge's decision. I also had to sit on my letters for some time because of waiting for the LA to fulfil their legal duty in completing the statement in accordance with the judge's orders and for their appeal deadline to pass

So - now it's all clear... My compliant letters have all been posted tonight. I wonder what, if anything, will happen. I have sent a very comprehensive compliant letter which is fully supported with documentary evidence.

My local MP might be slightly interested because my son was previously at a mainstream school where he is a school governor. Although I have written to him because of the behaviour of the LA - not because of the behaviour of his school (which caused my son to have an anxiety disorder).

I have been warned that the LA might be vengeful that I have had the cheek to complain. But I won't be silenced on this.

TOWIELA Wed 11-Sep-13 17:49:17

Of course I meant "complaint" not "compliant". Only someone who is cruel to dyslexics would make a slip of a letter totally change the meaning of a sentence into the opposite meaning!

2boysnamedR Wed 11-Sep-13 18:08:53

I complained to my mp about my son salt being withdrawn at the same time as putting in a formal complaint to the nhs. Guess what? My mp phoned the salt department and I got a call from the manager saying she would phone his school and ensure he was put at the top of the school salt team. Not had anything formal yet ( but it only been five days).
But my mp is brilliant

notSENsible Wed 11-Sep-13 18:55:10

Good luck Towie - I hope you do get somewhere with this. I have had threats and all sorts because I have had the cheek to complain but will carry on regardless. They try these things in the hope of putting people off so they don't have to justify anything to them. Don't forget there's always the media wink

MadameSin Wed 11-Sep-13 19:30:27

What ever you do, follow the schols complaint procedure first .. they won't touch you with a barge pole otherwise. May take time, but it will save you in the long run and hoepfully you'll get somewhere. I would also raise with your local MP at the same time as they won;t bebothered about complaint procedures and are usually very good at getting involved. Good luck! smile

TOWIELA Wed 11-Sep-13 19:45:16

2boys - it's amazing what an MPs input can do!

noSEN - I have no doubt that I will be hated even more by my LA. The media is an option - I have a very good story to tell that can be told on several levels. But I've still not decided about whether to go public or not. Maybe I'll wait to see what happens with the complaint.

Madame - there's no point going to the school because my son did not attend this school at any point. I am complaining about a breech in the Education Act by my LA - which the school then perpetuated (so yes, I suppose I should complain to them too). However, according to IPSEA this type of complaint should go to the Secretary of State for Education because it's clear maladministration by the LA. Yes, the local MP should be interested, not least because he is a school governor at my son's previous school.

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