Ofsted is the body which inspects schools at least once every three years. Schools are required to notify parents of the inspection, and to include details of how they can pass their views to inspectors. Parents can ask to speak to inspectors during the inspection.

In addition, parents have a legal right to complain to Ofsted on the work of:

  • maintained schools, academies and city technology colleges
  • non-maintained special schools
  • early years settings (including childminders), both maintained and private

(See the note below for further information about independent schools.)

For example, Ofsted could investigate complaints about:

  • The quality of education provided by the school or early years setting and the standards achieved
  • Inadequate provision for pupils with SEN
  • Neglect of pupils’ personal development and well-being
  • The quality of the leadership and management e.g. whether the school spends its money well (this could include the SEN budget, for example).

Ofsted will not usually consider a complaint if you have not first followed the school or early years setting’s formal complaints procedure and (if the complaint is about a school or academy) complained to the Department for Education.

Ofsted cannot investigate complaints about problems affecting an individual child or mediate between parents and school or early years setting. However, it can:

  • Call an immediate inspection at short notice in response to a very serious complaint
  • Order the school to call a meeting of parents to be chaired by an inspector
  • Require a school, early years setting, or local authority to provide information
  • Discuss parents’ concerns informally with the school or consider them when it next inspects the school.

Generally Ofsted will need to give a parent’s name to the school or early years setting to investigate properly, which may affect their relationship with the school. (You can complain anonymously but this may restrict what Ofsted can do for you.)

Where a parent has concerns about a school, they can find more information about when and how to complain, the type of complaints Ofsted is able to act upon and the action it can take here.

You can make the complaint using the online form on Ofsted’s website.

What about independent schools?

Many independent schools are members of associations such as the Independent Schools Council, which conduct their own inspections (for example through the Independent Schools Inspectorate. If the school is a member of an association like this, parents should complain to the relevant association.

However other independent schools – known as non-association independent schools – are inspected by Ofsted, and so a complaint can still be made to Ofsted.


If complaining to Ofsted is not appropriate – for example, because the matter is serious and urgent – you may need to consider judicial review.

If you haven’t been able to find the answer to your question, you can book an appointment to speak with us.