Parents, guardians, and other adults usually have the best interests of children at heart. When children are not receiving the education or treatment that they should in school, adults may want to complain and change this. Read this guide to learn how to complain about a school. There are lots of factors affecting how you should complain to a school.
What can you make a complaint against a school about?
There are many causes for complaints against schools. They are normally due to action that the school is taking, or failing to take. Common reasons to complain about schools include:
- bullying (by pupils or teachers)
- professional misconduct or incompetence
- changes in policy
- not following statutory guidance
- failing to support children with special needs
- unfair suspension or exclusion
- breaching data protection
- misinformation or maladministration
Who do you make a complaint against a school to?
The type of school that the child is attending determines which authority is responsible for handling complaints about them. You can initially make an informal complaint by speaking to staff at the school. This may be your child’s tutor, head of year, or head teacher. You can ask for a copy of their complaints procedure, which every school should have. This will have guidance on how to submit a written complaint and where to send it. You must be factual and concise, and refer to relevant school policies. If you need to escalate it, then you may have to explain your complaint in front of a panel of the school’s governors or trustees.
What happens when you make a complaint against a school?
A member of staff at the school should be responsible for investigating your complaint. They should establish the facts of the situation, including interviewing those involved, and keep a record of it all. You should keep in contact with them to determine what must be done to resolve the issue satisfactorily. An acknowledgement, explanation, and apology might be enough. Or you could request an agreement to review and adjust their policies to reassure you that the problem won’t happen again. The school should carry out disciplinary proceedings if necessary and update you on further outcomes. You may have to escalate it.
How to Make a Complaint Against an Academy or Free School
Approaching a state school or academy with a complaint requires you to contact them directly. You must follow their individual complaints procedure, which you should be able to find on the school’s website. Complain in writing to the headteacher, then to the board of governors or trustees. You can only complain to them directly if your child is attending the school. If you are not happy with the response from an academy, take your complaint to the ESFA (Education and Skills Funding Agency). You can make complaints online to the Department for Education or to Ofsted. This is only after following the school’s procedure.
How to Make a Complaint Against a Private School
The same process applies to private schools as well. You must consult the school’s official complaints procedure and follow the stages in it. The school will only accept complaints from people who have children attending that institution. Ofsted is not able to investigate complaints about independent schools. Similarly, the Department for Education can’t step in regarding individual complaints. They can only regulate the school and investigate any failure to meet its standards. You might complain about their premises or pupil welfare.
How to Make a Complaint Against a Local Authority School
Your child’s school may be maintained by a local authority. Like schools, all local authorities should have an official complaints policy. They should provide this publicly for everyone to follow. If the local authority does not handle your complaint satisfactorily, then you could complain about the local authority. These escalations should go to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman. You should always complain directly to the school before going to the local authority. Parents, carers, and wider community members can complain about a maintained school. Ofsted and the Ombudsman can only investigate certain issues.
How to Make a Complaint Against a School About Special Educational Needs
You may have a child registered at a school which is not supporting their special education needs (SEN). First, you should talk to the school’s SEN co-ordinator, then follow the school’s process for complaints. Then you can complain to your local authority. This applies if your complaint is about an EHC plan for your child (education, health, and care). If the complaint is about discrimination against somebody with a disability, then you can take it to a SEND tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability). You must fill out one of these forms and submit a claim within 6 months of the incident. You may have to attend a tribunal hearing.
How to Make a Complaint Against a School to the Department for Education
You must complete the school’s formal complaints procedure before you can refer the issue to the Department for Education. Your communication will need to explain what the school has done and why they have failed to resolve the complaint. It is important to also include any documentary evidence to support your case. The DfE can command schools or local authorities to take a particular action. However, they do not always take up complaint cases. If the DfE does not use its power to help you, then you may be able to turn to Ofsted.
How to Make a Complaint Against a School to Ofsted
Ofsted does not investigate complaints involving individual pupils for them. They will only investigate reports of issues with how a school is run. Valid complaints could be about the quality of education, inadequate support for SEN pupils, neglect of student wellbeing and development, or inefficient management. You can complain to Ofsted online after following the school’s complaints policy. They may contact you for more information. Ofsted has the power to call inspections or parent meetings. They will most likely share your information with the school, which could affect your relationship. If you ask to remain anonymous, this limits what Ofsted can do about the situation. They may only have an informal discussion.