A STOURBRIDGE mum has hit out at Dudley Council for failing to provide education for her daughter who has been unable to attend school since November due to illness.

Helen Ashby's 14-year-old daughter Elizabeth has not been well enough to attend Ridgewood High School since November 19 and the concerned mum has told the News she is becoming increasingly worried about the bright teenager's grades - having missed three months of education in her penultimate year at school.

She said: "Legislation states if a child is off school with illness for more than 15 consecutive days and it’s likely to be ongoing the local authority must provide education.

“Elizabeth has been off school significantly in October with illness and continually since November 19, 2018."

She said headteacher Rae Cope has been "very understanding and very considerate" to working with her to try and help the teenager return to class but to date Elizabeth has not been well enough to venture back to school.

She added: "My daughter is only receiving education from me, I have purchased all the text books and revision guides.

“It’s appalling that the local authority thinks it is okay to leave a smart student with no education when the reason she can’t attend school is through no fault of her own and there is legislation in place to ensure she does get it."

According to the Government, local councils must ensure children off sick from school receive as normal an education as possible and this could include home or hospital teaching or a combination of both.

Local authorities are also charged with making sure a poorly pupil is not without access to education for more than 15 school days and that education is arranged from the start of the child's absence if they are expected to be away from school for long or recurring periods.

Mrs Ashby, from Norton, however, claims she was told tutoring provision through Dudley's Cherry Tree Learning Centre - which supports children across the borough unable to access school due to ill health - was "under-funded, under-staffed and over-subscribed" and she said Elizabeth was on a waiting list.

Councillor Sue Ridney, Dudley Council's cabinet member for children and young people, said of the situation: “We offer a range of support for children who have long term health issues stopping them from attending mainstream school.

"Cherry Tree pupil referral unit offers short term support for children with medical needs, but we would also expect children to have the help from their school, while they wait for a place to become available.

“Places are limited at the Medical Short Stay School and the demand for places has increased dramatically recently."

Cherry Tree Learning Centre has places for up to 60 pupils and according to the council 58 places were this week filled with the remaining two allocated; it is also able to provide home tuition to 28 pupils in addition and the authority says it is currently paying staff for extra hours to meet the increase in referrals and that last month as many as 40 poorly pupils received tuition at home.

Cllr Ridney went on to say: "We are working with Cherry Tree to extend their provision, so that we can meet the needs of this group of young people.

"In this case we are working with the family so they can access the right support to ensure their child’s education continues until a place is available.”

Mrs Ashby said she was considering taking the council to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman after reading about a case in Cornwall where a student was awarded compensation after Cornwall Council and the girl's school failed to act and she missed out on six months of full-time education and possible one-to-one education in the run-up to her GCSEs.

She has also been considering legal action but said: "I have found out the average cost of taking the LA to court is £20k - not something I can afford and they clearly bank on parents not having the funds or emotional strength to take them on."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said it was "shocking" that no education had been provided for the teenager since November when told about the saga during a recent visit to Dudley and he added: "Any student that’s off sick for a prolonged period should be supported and given some study at home if they are able to have that study.

"Every student deserves the best we can give them. If somebody’s off sick they should be supported, it’s a basic principle."