The first port of call for complaints about schools will usually be to the school itself. This applies to maintained schools, academies and independent schools. An exception would be if, for example, if you feel that your complaint will not be given a fair consideration due to conflicts of interest.

If the school is a public body (like a maintained school or an academy) and it is not appropriate to complain and follow any of the below possible next steps you may need to consider judicial review instead. For example, because the matter is serious and urgent and these options would take too long to resolve the issue.

To complain, the first step is to follow the school’s own complaints procedure. Schools must by law have a procedure for parents to complain.

There is guidance on how to complain on the Department for Education’s (DfE’s) website. There is also guidance for maintained nurseries and schools on best practice for complaints procedures, which sets out what the DfE expects schools to do in the event of a complaint.  

Next steps

If you complain and are not happy with the outcome, the next steps depend on the type of complaint you are making.

Complaining about a maintained school

If you are complaining about a maintained school, you can complain to the local authority (LA).

Not all LAs will look into school issue complaints, particularly if they feel it can be addressed within the internal school management system. However local authorities do have a specific power to intervene under section 62 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, where the behaviour of certain pupils is severely prejudicing the education of other pupils. This is relevant where there are bullying issues the school is failing to deal with. You can read more about this on the Child Law Advice website.

If that doesn’t resolve things, the next step will be to complain to the Department for Education (DfE).

You may be able to complain to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) if your complaint is about: 

If the school was a maintained school and recently converted to be an academy the LGSCO may be able to investigate a complaint on these issues too. Check with the LGSCO directly if you’re not sure whether this applies in your case.

Complaining about other schools or further education settings

If you are complaining about any other type of school (including an academy) or further education institution, you should complain to the Department for Education (DfE). 

Complaining about an early years setting

If you want to complain about a nursery or early years’ setting, this is not dealt with by the DfE. You should complain to Ofsted

Complaining about information or data protection

If your complaint is about data protection, or a nursery, school, or college’s failure to provide you with information you are entitled to, you should complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office.