School complaints

School complaints processes vary depending on whether they are a maintained school, academy or independent school. They also vary depending on which part of the United Kingdom you live in.  

All schools should have a complaints procedure on their website or available on request from the school office. Follow their complaints procedure step-by-step. 

When making a formal complaint it is helpful to consider: 

  • What was the decision, action or failure to act which you feel was wrong? 
  • Has the law been broken?  Has the school acted out of line with their legal duties (a principle of common law is that schools must have the same standard of care for their pupils as a reasonable parent would)? 
  • Which school policies or procedures are relevant?  Which policies and procedures are unhelpful or do not exist? 
  • Exactly when and where did things happen? 
  • Are there witnesses?  Do the witnesses agree with you that it was wrong?  Is anyone willing to give a written statement to support your points? 
  • Have you complained about this problem or similar problems before?  Who have you spoken to or contacted so far?  When did you speak to or contact them?  What was decided or agreed? 
  • How has the problem affected your child both in and out of school? 
  • Does anyone else such as a doctor, youth worker or family friend know about the effect on your child?  Will they write a statement about this? 
  • How will resolving this problem positively affect the whole school community?  This is important because the needs of the individual pupil will be balanced against the needs of the whole school community. 
  • What the school could do to put things right – an apology, a commitment to review relevant policies and procedures, an assurance it will not happen again etc. 

Escalating a complaint

State schools 

Maintained: Board of Governors 

Make a complaint in writing to the school’s governors explaining what has happened and what steps you have taken to resolve the problem. The school office is required to provide you with contact details for governors. 

Academies: Panel 

Make a complaint in writing to the academy trust, and allow for a panel hearing to be set up by the academy trust when the parent is not satisfied with the outcome of the written complaint. The panel must include at least three people who are not involved in matters detailed in the complaint. One member of the panel must be independent of the management and running of the school. 

What next? 

In England... 

For both state schools and academies, once this process has been exhausted parents can complain to the Department for Education via their Complain About A School form. 

Your complaint should set out the facts, and explain why the school or college’s formal complaint procedure failed to resolve matters. You should explain why the school or college’s actions are unreasonable or unlawful. You should also provide evidence, including copies of any letters or emails which show what has happened. 

If you believe the issue is affecting the whole school, with numerous pupils being bullied or a safeguarding concern which affects many pupils, you can complain to Ofsted. 

You may also wish to contact local MP; find their contact details at TheyWorkForYou.com. 

In Wales... 

Once you have exhausted the school complaints procedures you can make contact with your local authority. You may also wish to contact the Office of the Children's Commissioner for Wales for advice.  

For more details see Complaints Procedures for School Governing Bodies in Wales.  

Independent schools 

Check your school’s complaints procedure. Look through your contract with the school to see whether the school has breached any of the terms. You may need to consult a solicitor specialising in contract law. 

Once all options have been exhausted, contact the Independent Schools Inspectorate. You can also complain to the Department for Education if you believe the problem to be school-wide. 

 

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