independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Dept of Education ‘failed a child’ after it was unable to find him a school in 26 attempts

THE Department of Education failed a child who was from a highly disadvantaged background, after he was unable to secure a school place in 26 attempts, a new report found.

An investigation into the boy's case by the Ombudsman for Children found that he was adversely affected by the actions of the department.

It also found that the actions of the department were based on “undesirable administrative practice” in the case.

The boy was in the care of the HSE and aged 13 when a complaint was filed with the ombudsman by his guardian ad litem, who is legally responsible for his interests.

He had been expelled from a school in May 2008 due to behavioural issues.

However this was after a recent separation from his mother and siblings, a violent family death and inadequate care from his father, his guardian said.

In June 2009 the boy was taken to a non-EU state with his father, but returned alone later that year. He was then placed in foster care.

The boy did not receive any full-time education from May 2008 until March 2010 - almost two years.

Filing a complaint, his guardian and solicitor alleged this was a result of a lack of management of the child's education by the department.

The ombudsman's investigation found that in January and February 2010 the child's social worker applied to 26 schools, including a refusal appeal to one of them, in an attempt to find a placement.

Previous behaviour, living outside the catchment area and not meeting admissions criteria were among the reasons cited by the schools.

When contacted by lawyers for the child about their intention to seek a High Court judicial review, the department said it had “no direct role” in finding a school place for individuals

The boy received nine hours of home tuition a week from January 2010 and eventually secured full time education in March that year.

The ombudsman found that the appropriate needs of children in care are not reflected by the current home tuition scheme and that the needs of the child in the complaint case were not met.

Being away from school for two years “deprived the child of opportunities for personal growth and development,” the reported added.

It also said that it was the responsibility of the department to ensure that schools in a catchment area can cater for all pupils seeking a school placement.

While the department rejected the findings that its actions had an adverse affect on the child, it admitted that legislative change was required in certain areas to address such situations.

It said that Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn was drawing up the heads of a Bill to address certain school admission issues.

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