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

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

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 are not satisfied with the outcome of your complaint, the next steps depend on the type of complaint you are making.

  • If you are complaining about a maintained school, you can complain to the Local Authority. Not all Local Authorities 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 this doesn’t resolve matters, or if you are complaining about any other type of school (including an academy) or further education institution, the next stage is to complain to the Department for Education
  • If you want to complain about a nursery or early years’ setting, this is not dealt with by the DfE and so the next step is to complain to Ofsted
  • 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.
  • You can complain to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman if your complaint is about: 
  1. a school failing to make the provision in the EHC plan, despite having the resources to do so
  2. the processes followed by an independent review panel following an exclusion, or
  3. the processes followed by an admissions appeals panel.

If it is not appropriate to pursue any of the above routes of complaint – for example, because the matter is serious and urgent – you may need to consider judicial review.