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Why are schools not held just as responsible as the LEA for the failures

(112 Posts)
hoxtonbabe Thu 01-Aug-13 15:57:59

I have been reading through a few threads and the common none these last few months ( or in my case few years) is the issue with the school not implementing.

I understand that LA are ultimately responsible but given that schools also have a duty of care how is it so many of them can get away with what they do.

I suppose it depends on the issue so if a child needed say OT in school and LA didn't provide then I get that is the LA at fault but what happens if say the school have said they can offer xxx learning programme within school and their resources and then don't? That to me would be the school being at fault.

I think a lot of what we face as parents AFTER the ordeal of tribunal is then getting the school to comply and because they know they will never face any action like an LA does they just do whatever they feel like.

It's like a never ending vicious cycle of crap within the SEN system

inappropriatelyemployed Thu 01-Aug-13 16:03:33

I agree it is a never ending cycle of crap. But the buck stops with the LA because, in law, they are responsible for the child they have identified as having SEN. So, if the school can't or won't provide the support, the LA has to do it.

Schools are controlled by LAs so it is for the LA to take matters up with the school but the child shouldn't be failed by internal wrangling and that is why one clear responsibility rests with one body - the LA.

In theory of course. You can forget the LGO enforcing it! You can go to JR though there really is a limit to how many times you can cope with threatening JR.

Of course, you can complain about schools to the Gov Body or to Ofsted (in a very limit fashion) but I agree they do duck out of it all responsibility most of the time.

TOWIELA Thu 01-Aug-13 16:22:58

Although I still don't know the outcome of the Tribunal (long story!), before we even walked into the hearing the LA conceded to great rafts of provision

I have spent the last few sleepless nights wondering how the hell I'm going to even be able to determine if the LA's school does implement it all. It's not even as though I can pop into the classroom, because the LA, in their wisdom, named a school 20 miles/1 hour away so are liable to taxi-ing to and from their school. I will never be popping in!

So how the hell am I can to ensure that everything that we gained (I refuse to use the word "won") is actually put into place?. I honestly don't think there's enough hours in the school day to do it all - and the Statement states very specifically who should do the providing

It is going to be a nightmare to "police" it - also as the school put in 2 witnesses for the LA - how the hell do I build a relationship with these 2 senior people?

ilikemysleep Thu 01-Aug-13 17:59:26

In these days of academies actually LAs have less and less control over schools, and almost no budget. Its one of the great ironies of the sen system, that the LA gets all of the responsibility to police but doesn't any longer hold all the money to ensure the school does what it's meant to.

fightingyetagain Thu 01-Aug-13 18:45:56

And what if the school tell the LA that they're doing things when they're not? I have seen emails going around the school staff congratulating themselves on what a marvellous job the LA have said that they're doing with my ds - they really failed him! hmm

uggerthebugger Thu 01-Aug-13 18:54:43

The problem here is that responsibility means nothing unless there's accountability - and the people who hold schools and LAs accountable for the quality of SN provision often don't have the skills to do the job.

Even when we painstakingly hand-craft the tools ourselves and point these people in the direction of the problem, many of them aren't interested, and some are actively opposed. The accountability issue with SN in academies that ilike raises is an open invitation to neglect for any school senior leadership team that has no interest in supporting kids with SN.

There is one other agency that schools and LAs are indirectly accountable to - Ofsted. After a bit of pressure, Ofsted are now starting to employ more inspectors with genuine specialist SN expertise, and they now make more explicit judgements about the quality of SN provision in their reports than they used to. They still rely far too heavily on data rather than direct observation to make judgements (even in highly individualised SN cases) , but things are on the up - the specialist teachers at DS2's school actually got some meaningful and useful feedback from a recent inspection, because it was carried out by a specialist.

Unfortunately, momentum's stalled elsewhere. Ofsted came very, very close recently to begin regular inspections of LA specialist children's services - including SEN officers. In the end, they decided on a crappy fudge whereby they'll only do it under very narrow circumstances.

I reckon that with a bit more pressure though, Ofsted might be willing to take it on. Can you imagine the synchronised sphincter clenching in LA SEN offices across the land if they had to answer to no-notice inspections?

hoxtonbabe Thu 01-Aug-13 19:34:04

But who holds the schools accountable? Ofsted, the Dept for Education? They have no interest in these things and all to often you get batted around being told go to the governors or the head of education (when you have already done that) , that is the problem as you pointed out the people that should be holding these schools to account have no idea themselves, plus Ofsted will not deal with individual issues, unless something to do with safeguarding or extremely rare cases.

Fightingyetagain makes a good point, this for me is a major issue and still trying to find out (which hopefully I will by the end of this month from a QC and report back) where the responsibility lay. If you have a school saying they have done xxx (bearing in mind they have no evidence to back this) they refuse..flat out refuse to do xxx as per the statement and lets face it an LA can not put a knife to the headteachers throat especially if it is an out of borough school as then you have the headache of the school not wanting to be told what to do, etc..

if a school take on the responsibility of saying at a tribunal (and in general for years) we can deliver xxx provision , to simply not do it, now remember the LA are basing their defense/evidence at a tribunal based on what the school are saying they can do.

The school "should" be acting in the child's best interest as they too have a duty of care, so they should not be saying whatever the LA tell them to (we know it happens though and goes against everything witnesses guidelines state and not acting in the childs interest) so if they do lie and the sh*t hits the fan, then why should the school not be held accountable? and I don't mean some piddly telling off from the just as corrupt LGO, I mean really get it like the LA's can. I should not be the norm or accepted that a school can say "yeah we can do xxx" in order to meet your childs needs, have that written into the statement, then some weeks/months later say, "nope we cant be bothered"

Whilst it is seemingly too late for my DS, I would like to live in hope that in the future schools will be held more accountable for their part of failing children with SEN, rather than it all being on the LA, as far too many schools get out of their responsibilities and duties because of this issue with LA being ultimately responsible

fightingyetagain Thu 01-Aug-13 19:46:19

Ofsted wouldn't even look at a safeguarding issue I raised, which I think was pretty serious. I was informed that if I sent evidence they would make a note to put 'on file' for the next inspection. Apparently any concerns should be raised with the LA nominated safeguarding officer but if they think the school's marvellous they're hardly going to investigate properly are they?

inappropriatelyemployed Thu 01-Aug-13 19:53:02

I can only say, like the rest of the SEN system, it is parents who ultimately hold schools and LAs to account as no one else really gives a toss.

That is the reality.

Yes, there are academies but there are none in my city so there's no excuse there. And LAs do have SEN budgets. Yes they are not big enough but that is not the children's fault.

You wouldn't accept a hospital saying sorry our budget isn't big enough for the treatment all the clinicians agree is medically necessary for your child. But we are somehow expected to accept this or even feel sorry for LAs when they pull this line.

If they don't like it, badger their elected officials to campaign to their parties about the effect of poor funding. Produce data to support it. No? Or just hide behind self-pity and policies and arguments that parents expect too much and all children in our county get x,y,z ad infinitum and, when all else fails LIE.

So oversight bodies can't administer this because you can't address people who persistently lie until you prove them to be liars. Look at NHS Trusts for evidence of that.

But where are the whistleblowers in the SEN world? Eh? TAs or teachers who know schools are lying. SEN staff at the LA who cover up failures in provision or follow policies which unlawfully prevent kids from accessing provision.

No, they are nowhere to be seen because no one really gives a shit about disabled kids.

TOWIELA Thu 01-Aug-13 20:05:43

Hoxtonbabe - yes two senior school reps stood up in a court of law and said 'yep we can provide x y and z'. If the judge rules in the LA's favour, then I will hold these 2 people personally liable that they deliver x, y and z exactly as it's written in the Statement. It truly will be a miracle if they can provide, because the LA conceded so much very specific provision before the hearing that I honestly don't think the school realised the implications of what they've agreed to.

So I'm likely to be labelled a "trouble-maker" and vexatious because I sure as hell aren't going to take any excuses over them not providing and I will be on their backs constantly to personally ensure the Statement is adhered to. Lack of resources will not be an excuse.

Pre-empting my concerns... Anyone know any good legal aid lawyers who will take on a judicial review?

hoxtonbabe Thu 01-Aug-13 21:48:07

I always sit at my laptop reading everyones thread shaking my head and getting so worked up, half the time I dont know what to say when I read the same shi* story over and over about schools, LA, "professionals" , as it really appears to be getting worse for SEN/disabled children, and I did not think it could get worse!

TOWIELA: There are only 3, Maxwell Gillot, Coram Legal centre and until recently NYAS, but they no longer have the education contract and I think it has moved to Tower Hamlets Law centre who I would not use for all the tea in china! so gone are the days of having a choice love, thats your lot...only 3!

You can ask to be put to a preference, but I also think it depends on how you get on the helpline (you have to go via a helpline thingy first)

I want to use MG for my Cease to maintain but I dont want some "education Advocate" dealing with my case, as more often than not I end up telling them the bloomin law! I want the actual solicitors that tend to not deal with the Legal aid cases, so im certainly stuffed, lol

hoxtonbabe Thu 01-Aug-13 21:50:11

oddly enough upon all the grief I am giving the LA and school they have not thrown the vexatious card at me yet...just the I am a crap mother not looking out for her child best interest card , lol

fightingyetagain Thu 01-Aug-13 21:58:34

Oh yes, the 'doing everything in your child's best interests' old chestnut. Have you logged any official complaints yet - that's when they start the 'vexatious parent' spiel.

inappropriatelyemployed Thu 01-Aug-13 21:58:45

You don't need to have an education contract to do judicial review work. I would recommend Irwin Mitchell.

hoxtonbabe Thu 01-Aug-13 22:31:44

IE, that's true as it can be done under public/Administrative law rather than just Education , although when I tried this route (inc IM) I kept getting fobbed off to go to one of the Education solictors...

I suppose it depends on your case..

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Fri 02-Aug-13 09:34:59

DS1 is in a indi specialist school with similar peers, specialist teachers and onsite therapy.

If the LA had not conceded he would have gone to local m/s secondary with an enormous package of support - far more support than any other DC in a school of 1500. I am sure that there are DC there with as great or even greater needs whose parents did not go to tribunal and have statements for far less.

By the time we got to the hearing the statement described the needs of a child that the school would not recognise if he had actually attended there. This is partly due to misunderstandings that are repeated and treated as fact - for example DS1 was extremely anxious about the size and complexity of any proposed school which was most obvious to him in the schools having more than one floor. By the time I visited the LA named school, the SENCO had interpreted this as a phobia of stairs! Had we lost, the school would have quickly discovered that he does not have a phobia relating to stairs and so would assume that everything else in the statement had been exaggerated and that the provision stated was not necessary.

He would have had full-time 1:1 and so the LSA should not be used as a class resource but in reality I am not sure that I would want to insist that if DS1 was engaging and working independently that the LSA must be on stand-by just for him and ignore the other DC in the class. Insisting on my rights to have the statement implemented to letter would not create the environment that I wanted. I don't think that the right environment can be found in the m/s for some DC with HF ASD and high levels of anxiety that is internalised. Ironically, these are the same DC where m/s schools report 'no problems' or 'good progress'.

As it stands, I have no idea if the statement is implemented to the letter. This is less important as I trust the environment and I trust that the staff really do have the best interests of the DC at heart rather being more concerned about their budget or Ofsted rating.

inappropriatelyemployed Fri 02-Aug-13 09:46:17

I think you are right keeping, they don't know what to do with AS kids at all. The traditional TA model just doesn't work.

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Fri 02-Aug-13 10:06:38

Towie is right - by the time you get to hearing there is not enough time in the school day to deliver the provision in the statement. DS1 had one hour of SALT and one hour of OT (with p/g for SI) each week. The m/s school was forced to try and cobble together sufficient time for interventions that did not remove him from teaching time. They planned to deliver 20 minutes of therapy each day whilst the other DC were at registration and in their form classes despite the fact that this was impractical and increased the cost from 1 visit from an indi therapist per week to 3 visits.

But without a statement that specifies that amount of provision in the m/s, placement in an indi ss is seen as 'unreasonable public expenditure'.

newregard Fri 02-Aug-13 10:36:06

DS is in an independent specialist school too but his last year of mainstream was a nightmare mainly because of the lack of implementation and lack of training for staff. Most parents I know with HFA DC are in mainstream and even those with very good statements, and in good schools have to police it. There is still a lot of suspicion against the school and I think that contributes to a higher level of stress. For me, that was the key factor in pushing for a specialist school - I didn't want to spend all my time factchecking and confirming things, I just wanted to be able to be a parent and enjoy school events without constantly being on the alert.

When I was constantly at meetings with the old mainstream school, I felt like I was in combat mode all the time. I don't feel like that now, even though I know that the statement isn't being fully implemented. I just know that it's the right environment, DS is doing well, and like keepingon I feel that I can trust the staff - not just having the best interests for DS (which I actually feel some of the staff had in mainstream) but also the training/experience (which staff in mainstream definitely didn't have!)

inappropriatelyemployed Fri 02-Aug-13 10:59:58

I agree. You end up with this statement to deliver needs which is not going to be able to be delivered in a mainstream school without removing the child from classes and making him look very different and to a child that really wants to fly under the radar this is a nightmare.

Sadly, for us, I haven't seen a special school that would be appropriate for DS as we don't want residential and other SS locally don't seem to be able to combine the AS expertise etc with ensuring academic success and I don't want to compromise one for the other.

TOWIELA Fri 02-Aug-13 11:48:37

I have just added up all the provision that the LA conceded to shortly before our hearing. This is not TA classroom support - this is very specific support to do a very specific objective carried out by a very specific person/role. It comes to 17½ hours. Taking that the school week (less lunch and break) is approx 23ish hours - my son will be educated with other pupils for less than 6 hours a week with his peers! So in these 6 hours, he will have to do the rest of the curriculum - maths, English, PE, history, design etc etc.

Still waiting...

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Fri 02-Aug-13 13:40:40

This may bode well - after all, if the package is not completely illogical and requires high levels of funding to deliver in the mainstream, it is unreasonable.

TOWIELA Fri 02-Aug-13 13:49:31

Well nothing else has gone logically or legally in my DC's case, so I won't hold my breath that the panel can count! Although if he does end up at the LA school, in a year's time, when we do secondary transfer, I'll be able to show that all the provision has meant he hasn't had access to the national curriculum.

It's all a game!

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Fri 02-Aug-13 14:03:11

Have you phoned the tribunal service?

At least you have work and the rail network to distract you smile

TOWIELA Fri 02-Aug-13 14:11:21

Yes Keep. Houston, we have a problem. So another weekend of no news.

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