‘Maladministration’ behind special needs mishap
A child with special needs was overlooked because of “maladministration” in the Department of Education, a report by the Ombudsman has ruled.
Victoria Pearman said improvements were needed to prevent children from education harm in her 2019 report on the work of her office.
Ms Pearman added: “We saw no indication during our investigation that officials set out to undermine the accommodation of this child's special needs.
“Rather, the child's education was lacking because of a number of inadequate administrative practices.
“Our investigation confirmed the importance of planning, execution of plans, good record-keeping and good communication, which are essential to ensure the vulnerable in our society do not fall through the cracks.”
Ms Pearman said the Ombudsman's Office launched an investigation after a complaint from parents who felt their child had been ignored by the public education system.
She said: “They alleged that the DoE failed to adequately prepare or communicate any educational plan that was sufficiently responsive to the child's needs.
“They claimed that the DoE unreasonably delayed providing a written comprehensive plan for restructuring the functional skills programme at the new school to which their child had been transferred to benefit from this programme.
“They also complained that the DOE failed to ensure a comprehensive individualised education plan was in place for their child at the new school.”
Ms Pearman added the public education system had faced problems for a while — particularly in its handling of children with special needs.
She said: “It has been publicly acknowledged that children with special needs have been under-serviced, which has been contributed to by a systemic issue — that being Bermuda has no statutory framework for special education.”
Ms Pearman found that the department had not given the child's parents a proper plan for the child's placement in the functional skills programme at the school.
She said: “What the parents were provided was inadequate to meet any reasonable standard that would indicate how an educator could continually assess the suitability of the child's placement based on established goals and progress.”
Ms Pearman added the department also failed to make sure parents were properly informed about educational plans for children that would be suitable for their needs.
She added: “We also found unfairness in the authority's actions in that it created a legitimate expectation in the parents, which in this case it did not uphold — that their child would be provided with private educational services beyond what was available in the public school system.”
Ms Pearman made a series of recommendations to tackle the case investigated, as well as several recommendations on the department's methods.
She said the department should review its record-keeping for complaints and publish information about the complaints process for parents.
Ms Pearman also advised the department to update its 2010 review of compliance with the National Policy for Disabilities 2007 and more recent guidance, as it continued to implement the Plan 2022 for education.
She said the Ombudsman's Office has worked with the department since the recommendations were made to make sure the changes were adopted.