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Education Legal services for Families, in particular, Special Educational Needs & Disability
Education Lawyers

Education complaints

We all expect our children’s path through education to run smoothly. Unfortunately, there may be times when you feel you have been let down, when processes haven’t been followed or when you believe an injustice has been done. If this has happened, you can make education complaints to the relevant body.

Complaints about education

Local authority complaints

If you have a serious concern about how you and your child have been treated by the local authority, you should always consider making an education complaint.

While you don’t set out expecting to have a difficult time, it’s still important that you keep contemporaneous notes of calls, including times and dates, and save emails, so you can support any claim you may wish to make. In the first instance, you should use the local authorities’ own complaints system. If this does not resolve your problem, you can also complain to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

School complaints: State schools

There are different ways to make a complaint in England depending on whether your child:

  • attends a state school
  • attends a private school
  • has special educational needs

State schools include:

  • maintained schools
  • academies and free schools

Every school in England must have a complaints procedure that should be published on their website.

  1. Complain in writing to the headteacher. Then if this does not resolve your problem,
  2. Complain in writing to the school’s governors or academy trustees.
  3. After you’ve followed the school’s complaint process, you can complain to the Department for Education (DfE) if you’ve followed all the ‘Make a complaint’ steps.

Complain about how a whole state school is run

You can complain to Ofsted if you think a school is not run properly. You must have already followed the school’s own procedure. You should get a response within 30 working days. It will tell you if Ofsted will investigate or not, and why.

School complaints: independent schools

There are three steps:

  1. Follow the school’s complaints procedure – every school in England, including private schools,  must have one.
  2. Complain in writing to the headteacher.
  3. Complain in writing to the school’s governors.

You cannot complain directly to a private school if you do not have a child at the school.

Further complaints about independent schools

The Department for Education (DfE) cannot investigate individual concerns about private schools. But it has certain powers as a regulator if the school is not meeting standards set by DfE for:

  • education
  • pupil welfare and health and safety
  • school premises
  • staff suitability
  • making information available to parents
  • spiritual, moral, social or cultural development of students

The DfE will consider any reports of a major failure to meet the standards. It can arrange an emergency inspection to look at pupil welfare and health and safety, and make sure serious failings are dealt with. You can complain to the DfE by filling in the school complaint form.

Complaints about special schools

If you want to complain about a school’s SEN support, you should do it while your child is still registered at the school. This includes complaints that the school has not provided the support required by your child’s  education, health and care (EHC) plan.

To make a complaint follow these steps in order.

  1. Talk to the school’s special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO).
  2. Follow the school’s complaints procedure.
  3. Complain to your Local Authority.

There is a different process if you disagree with a decision your Local Authority has made about your child’s EHC plan.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman hears complaints against public bodies and cases by parents to the Ombudsman are increasing.

However, you cannot complain immediately to the LGSCO. You must first complain to the relevant place, as set out above, such as to a school head, the school governors or the local authority complaints system. If your complaint isn’t acted upon, there is also the local authority Monitoring Officer to try.

How we can help with complaints about education

If you feel that you need help with complaints against an injustice while you are trying to secure SEND help for your child, we will be happy to assist. We can help you at any, or all, stages of your complaint.

To find out what you can make a complaint about, read our FAQs about education complaints

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