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School - complaints procedure

​​​​​This page explains the usual procedure that you should follow if you have a concern or a complaint about a school issue.

Dealing informally with concerns and complaints

If you have a concern or complaint you should make contact with the appropriate member of staff. This may be the class teacher or the headteacher if they are immediately involved.

They can then investigate your complaint or concern and give you a response, making clear any action or monitoring of a situation that may be necessary. At this stage, misunderstandings can usually be cleared up. Everyone benefits from the speedy resolution of difficulties and from suggestions for improvement.

If no satisfactory solution to the complaint has been agreed you should be informed of your option to take the matter further.

Reporting formal complaints about school issues

If you have a complaint about a school issue, it's the responsibility of the school, and not the local authority, to investigate most complaints. Each school will have a complaints procedure which will tell you who to direct your complaint to and when you could expect a response by. List of schools and their contact details.

If you want to take the matter further, you should put your complaint, in writing, to the headteacher. If your complaint is about the headteacher, you should put your complaint, in writing, to the chair of governors.

Your complaint should be dealt with in an agreed timescale as part of the school's complaints procedure. You should ask for a copy of the school's complaints procedure which should tell you how the school will investigate the complaint. An investigation into your complaint should be carried out by the appropriate person (the headteacher or the chair of governors).

When all the relevant facts have been established, you should receive a written response.

What to do if you're unhappy with the response

You should be advised that if you wish to take the matter further you should write to the chair of the governing body.

A further investigation of your complaint should be carried out:

  • By the chair of governors if they've not had any previous involvement; or
  • By the governing body's complaints committee.

If the matter is dealt with at this stage by the chair of governors, and you are unhappy with the outcome, you should be advised of your right to take the matter further to the governing body’s complaints committee.

The complaints committee should carry out a detailed investigation into the complaint.

A meeting should be arranged, and everyone involved should receive copies of all available documentation about the complaint. You should be invited to attend the committee meeting to put your case (you may bring a friend or someone to represent you). The headteacher should also be invited to put the case for the school (the headteacher will be able to bring a friend or professional representative). You and the headteacher will be invited to speak to the panel (which will have 3 governors on it) and to ask and answer questions. The panel normally allows witnesses to attend part of the meeting.

What happens after a detailed investigation

You should be informed in writing of the panel's decision.

The 'appeal' hearing by the schools complaints committee or panel is the last school-based stage of the complaints process. All complaints about maintained schools not resolved by the school that would have been considered by the Local Government Ombudsman or the local authority should be addressed to the Secretary of State for Education.

Local authorities and the Local Government Ombudsman continue to be responsible for considering complaints about local authority services.

Finally, the Education and Inspections Act 2006 gives Ofsted new powers to investigate complaints from parents about schools.

The new powers to consider parental complaints come into effect in April 2007. They relate to complaints by registered parents and carers about their child’s school as a whole. For example that:

  • The school is not providing a good enough education.
  • The pupils are not achieving as much as they should, or their needs are not being met.
  • The school is not well led and managed or is not using its resources efficiently.
  • The pupils' personal development and well-being are being neglected.

Ofsted will usually suggest that parents use the schools complaints procedures first. They are not in a position to judge how well a school investigated or responded to a complaint or to mediate between a parent and a school to resolve a dispute.

Complaints dealt with by the Local Authority

Most concerns or complaints are of a general nature and are dealt with by the school under their own complaints procedure. However, concerns or complaints about any of the following issues should be made in writing to the Local Authority.

These are specifically concerns about areas where the authority has a statutory duty:

  • The provision of the national curriculum (the Education Act 2011 removed the duty for Local Authorities to consider complaints relating to the curriculum).
  • The provision of religious education and collective worship (with the exception of church aided schools).
  • School admission appeals.
  • Exclusions.
  • Special educational needs assessments.
  • Child protection issues and allegations of child abuse.

The Education and Inspections Act 2006 also places a duty on the Local Authority to consider representations from parents about school provision in their area. This relates to the opportunities of choice and the diversity of schools in the area. The Local Authority must consider what action to take in response to such representations and provide a statement to the parent setting out any action which the authority propose to take in response or, where relevant, their reasons for taking no action, in each case having regard to guidance from the Secretary of State.