How to Make a Complaint Against a School
  • 31st Mar 2020
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Although we would like to believe that whilst attending school, our children are protected, educated and cared for equally, there are unfortunate circumstances where institutions can let down students and parents in a number of ways.  

However, if you find yourself in a situation where you need to make a complaint about a school on your child’s behalf, there are several steps you can take to ensure that the issue is dealt with the appropriate severity.

There can be multiple ways to register a complaint against a school if you feel as if your child has been unjustly treated by other students or even a staff member. Depending on where you live in the United Kingdom, there are different methods you can follow to begin the complaints process. 

School Complaint Procedure in England

f you live in England, this process can vary based on whether your child attends a private school, a state school or has any special educational needs (SEN). For those residing in other parts of the UK, please take a look at the website to see how your complaints process works. 

Please note that regardless of your child’s schooling situation,  always contact your local council or call your local authorities on 101 if you believe that they are under any risk. Alternatively, if you believe that your child is in immediate danger, please call 999. 

State School Complaint Procedure

For children attending state institutions, such as academies, free schools or maintained schools, you can register your complaint through the process below. 


1. Make a Complaint Direct to the School

Every school has a complaints procedure, which should be available to parents, carers and students on the school’s website. 
The online complaints procedure should highlight what kind of complaints the school will deal with, such as school management, discrimination, bullying or behavioural issues. Please only move onto the next step(s) if your complaint remains unresolved.  

  • The first step will be to complain to the headteacher in writing. 
  • The second step is to complain to the school’s governors or academy trustees in writing. 

2. Make a Complaint to the Department for Education or Ofsted

If you have already followed the complaint process put in place by the school, you are qualified to complain to the Department for Education. 
To make a complaint about how an entire school is run, you can contact Ofsted directly. Please be aware that in order to begin this process, you must have already followed the school’s internal complaints procedure. 

Once contacting Ofsted, you should expect a response within 30 days. This will inform you whether they will further investigate your case or not, and why. 

Private School Complaint Procedure

Much of the private school complaints procedure remains the same as for state schools. 

As with state schools, you are encouraged to follow the process that the institution has in place to deal with complaints internally. You can also personally write to the headteacher, as well as the school governors or academy trustees. 

As the Department of Education is not able to investigate individual complaints about private schools, there are certain points which need to be met in order for a report to be made to them. These standards include: 

  • Education 
  • Staff suitability
  • Information made available to parents
  • Pupil welfare
  • Pupil health and safety
  • Secure school premises
  • Moral, social, cultural or spiritual development of students

If these standards are not met, the Department of Education is able to arrange an emergency inspection to ensure that serious issues are dealt with appropriately.

SEN Complaints Procedure

Please be aware that you will not be able to complain about your school’s SEN support if your child is no longer registered at the institution. This also applies to any complaints you may want to make if the school has not provided the support underlined on the child’s EHC plan or SEN statement. 

There are three clear steps that you can take if you are unhappy with the quality of support that your child is receiving from their school. 

  • Firstly talk to the school’s SENCO or special educational needs co-ordinator.
  • Follow the school’s official complaints process. 
  • File a complaint to the local authority. Alternatively, if your child’s school is considered an academy, free school or your complaint is not regarding an EHC plan or SEN statement, you can instead complain to the Education Funding Agency. 
  • For further information on how to complain about a school, please take a look at the guide provided on the website. If you believe that your child is being picked on or bullied by a school teacher, read our blog post on how to register your complaint. 

If you require further legal assistance, please contact our education law solicitors today.