EDUCATION chiefs have apologised to a Stourbridge mum who complained that her teenaged daughter had been left without schooling for months while on sick leave.

Concerned mum Helen Ashby endured months of frustration trying to liaise with Dudley Council after her daughter Elizabeth was signed off sick from school to ensure the teenager did not miss out on an education.

The Department for Education says local authorities must ensure children receive a suitable education if they are unable to attend school for an extended period of time due to illness or other reasons.

Mrs Ashby, however, says she had to really fight for her daughter's right to learn.

So frustrated with the situation she lodged a complaint with the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman over the delays in alternative provision being offered and for the distress caused and the council has now apologised to the determined mum who told the News back in February how "appalling" she thought it was for the local authority "to leave a smart student with no education when there is legislation in place to ensure she does get it".

Ridgewood High School student Elizabeth, whose ongoing medical problems have resulted in a recent diagnosis of Aspergers, is now receiving five hours a week of home tuition and has been promised further educational assistance when she is well enough.

Councillor Ruth Buttery, the council's cabinet member for children and young people, said: "Rare cases such as these can be complex and do take time but we offer our apologies to the family that adequate arrangements could not be put in place sooner."

Cllr Buttery said the authority was "committed to giving all our children, whatever their needs, the means to reach their full potential" and Mrs Ashby said she was now hopeful year 10 student Elizabeth, who is due to sit her GCSEs next year, would receive an appropriate level of education to suit her needs.

But she added: "My biggest disappointment is how long it took to get to this point and how much fighting it took to get there. Most people wouldn't have the determination or the time that goes into it."

An investigation by the News has revealed a host of councils across the country have been found at fault by the Ombudsman for failing in their statutory duty to provide education to school pupils on long-term leave due to illness or other reasons.

The number of complaints about alternative provision made to the Ombudsman by parents of children too unwell or unable to attend school have risen from 37 in 2015-16 to 50 in 2017/18.

While the number of complaints upheld almost doubled from seven in 2015/16 to 13 in 2017/18 - a total of 28 over three years.

As a result - councils across the country have collectively shelled out £45,200 in the last three years by way of compensation to pupils who have missed out on their education and in recognition of the stress placed on parents.

Mrs Ashby, however, believes the number of cases where councils are failing to ensure pupils on long-term sick leave are receiving an education is likely much higher than the complaint figures show as many parents may not have the energy while caring for a poorly youngster to pursue the matter with the Ombudsman or the money to instigate legal action against a local authority.