Clinically vulnerable Wakefield pupil had serious asthma attack after school return, Local Government Ombudsman report reveals

A clinically vulnerable child was allegedly hospitalised after suffering an asthma attack, shortly after he started junior school, a report has revealed.

Friday, 22nd October 2021, 4:11 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd October 2021, 4:12 pm

The boy's parents had kept him out of the classroom for most of the academic year, as they were concerned about his health if he caught Covid-19.

The school had earlier insisted he attend in person, because they believed they'd followed all government guidance for Covid and he was not classed as "extremely vulnerable".

Having started classroom education during the summer term of 2021, he was claimed to have promptly caught a cold and had a serious asthma attack, the Local Government Ombudsman said.

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The pupil attended junior school for the first time after Easter this year, having been away from the classroom for all of the academic year beforehand.

The pupil's father later said he felt his concerns about his son attending school had been "borne out".

The Ombudsman has now ruled Wakefield Council should have resolved the earlier dispute between the parents and the school "sooner".

The council said it would learn from the ruling.

In its report on the case, the Ombudsman said the boy's father was worried that catching Covid would exacerbate his asthma, as schools returned in September 2020.

Schools have had to abide by Covid protocols since the start of the pandemic.

It said the unnamed school offered him his own workstation, staggered start and finishing times and had put in place a number of hygiene measures.

But after a GP marked the child down as clinically vulnerable and told his parents to "err on the side of caution", his father kept him out of school.

The school's head did not agree the absence should be authorised, despite being advised to do so by the education welfare service.

The report described how the dispute escalated as the boy's father formally withdrew him from school in October, but then later claimed he'd been "pressured into it by the school".

After months of exchanges, the disagreement was eventually resolved after his parents received assurances about classroom arrangements and was told home working could be trialled for part of the week.

The report said the pupil's father reported how he was taken ill shortly after his return.

In its ruling on the case, the Ombudsman said that, "While the council made considerable efforts to get (the child) back into school, it should have brought matters to a head sooner."

It instructed the local authority to offer £400 worth of catch-up provision, to make up for schooling he'd lost at the end of 2020.

In response, the council's service director for education and inclusion, Andy Lancashire, said: “We are committed to working with children and their families to ensure that all young people have access to the high quality education they all deserve.

"We will learn from the Ombudsman’s report and will act on its findings."

Local Democracy Reporting Service