How to complain about your child’s school

Contact our Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) on 020 8359 4066 or call your local police on 101 if you think a child is in danger.

If you have a concern about your child’s education or school, it can usually be resolved by talking to a member of school staff or the headteacher. However, there may be occasions when you want to make a complaint.  You must complain to the school or childminder before complaining to any other organisation. The procedure is the same whether you have a child at the school or not.

All schools will have a formal complaints policy which will explain what you can do and who you should speak to at each stage of making a complaint.

Complaints procedures

Complaints procedures normally have three main stages:

Stage 1

You first need to take up your complaint with your child’s teacher, subject teacher or head of year.

Stage 2

If you are dissatisfied with their response you can make a complaint to the headteacher.

Stage 3

If you feel that you need to pursue your complaint further or your complaint is about the headteacher you will need to contact the Chair of the governing body. The governing body will arrange for your complaint to be fully investigated in line with the schools complaints procedure.

What to do if you aren't happy with the school and governing body’s responses

If the school is an academy and you feel that the governing body or board of trustees have acted unreasonably about your concerns, you can write to the Education Funding Agency (EFA). The EFA carries out certain functions in relation to open academies on behalf of the Secretary of State. They will not usually investigate complaints until the academy’s own complaints procedure, including any hearing, has been exhausted.

Full details about the role of the EFA on the Department for Education (DfE) website

If the school is not an academy and you feel that the governing body or the local authority have acted unreasonably about your concerns, you can write to the Secretary of State for Education. You will need to list the steps you have already taken and the responses you have received. Write to:

The Secretary of State
Department for Education
Sanctuary Buildings
London SW1

You can also access the online form:

Ofsted and complaints

Ofsted will not usually consider a complaint if you have not first followed the school’s or academy’s, local authority’s or Education Funding Agency’s complaints procedure. This includes writing to the Secretary of State.

Ofsted will not investigate cases to do with individual pupils. Their powers relate to ‘whole-school’ issues as set out below.

What other areas are excluded?

Ofsted are not able to consider a complaint when there are other statutory (legal) ways of pursuing it. This includes complaints relating to:

  • admission procedures
  • legal exclusions of individual pupils
  • providing education for individual pupils with special educational needs
  • religious education or the religious character of a school, or
  • temporary changes to the curriculum.

They are not in a position to:

  • investigate incidents that are alleged to have taken place
  • judge how well a school investigated or responded to a complaint
  • mediate between a parent or carer and a school to resolve a dispute.

If your concerns are about these issues you should contact your local parent partnership, local authority or the DfE.

Types of complaint Ofsted can consider

It is important to understand that Ofsted’s role in considering a complaint about a school is solely to determine if there is a need to inspect. Ofsted cannot seek to resolve or establish cause for any individual complaint.

If your concern affects the school as a whole and you have followed all of the existing processes including complaining to the governing body they have powers to consider some complaints made in writing about schools and they provide an online form for this.

These complaints may come from registered parents or carers of pupils at the school that the complaint is about and complaints from other people. This includes the parents and carers of pupils who may be off sick or temporarily excluded. Examples could include:

  • the school is not providing a good enough education
  • the pupils are not achieving as much as they should, or their different needs are not being met
  • the school is not well led and managed, or is inappropriately managing finances
  • as a group, the pupils’ personal development and well-being are being neglected (as stated above, they cannot look at individual cases).

How should I ask Ofsted to look at my complaint?

If you are certain that you have exhausted the school’s full complaints procedures as set out above, then you should fill in an online complaints form:

What might Ofsted do?

  • They may decide to take no further action.
  • They may keep a copy of the complaint for the information of the inspection team at the school’s next inspection.
  • They may send any concerns they receive about child protection to the social services or the police.
  • They may move an inspection forward to a date earlier than planned.
  • They may arrange an immediate inspection of the school if the concerns are very serious (although it is rare for them to take this action).

Where else to get help

Find put more on GOV.UK about how to complain about a school