Since 1 September 2003, governing bodies of maintained schools and maintained nursery schools in England have been required, under section 29 of the Education Act 2002, to have and make available a procedure to deal with complaints relating to their school and any facilities or services that the school provides.
However, some complaints about specific issues are not handled by this procedure, for example:
- Complaints about home to school transport
- Complaints about the national curriculum
- Complaints about safeguarding
- Complaints about the curriculum of religious worship
- Complaints about admissions or exclusions appeal procedures
- Complaints for which separate procedures exist
The local authority or the school will be able to provide details of the procedures that should be followed in these cases.
As academies work outside our control, complaints about them should be directed to the academy, which should have its own complaints procedure that enables unresolved complaints to be made to the Education Funding Agency; the academy will provide contact details.
What is a complaint?
A complaint is a verbal or written expression of dissatisfaction.
What is not a complaint?
- A request for, or the submission of, information
- A question about a policy or procedure
- A report about an incident
- Other similar circumstances
School complaint procedures
A copy of a school’s complaints procedure should be available on its website (this will be required under the amended School Information Regulations 2016) or a paper copy can be requested from the school.
There is no prescribed procedure for dealing with complaints. Governing bodies are free to choose their procedure. However, a series of stages, often as follows, enable verbal or written complaints to be considered by the following people within the school:
- Stage 1: A member of the school’s staff
- Stage 2: The headteacher or another member of the school’s senior leadership team
- Stage 3: The chair of the school’s governing body
- Stage 4: A governors’ complaints committee/panel. This is the end of the school-based stage process.
NB: It will only be necessary to move a complaint on to the next stage of the procedure if the person making the complaint isn't satisfied with the outcome at the previous stage.
Complaints should not usually ‘leap frog’ any of the stages, but it may be necessary, for example, if the complaint is about the headteacher, in which case it can be considered by the chair of the school’s governing body, ie at stage 3, bypassing stages 1 and 2.
Taking a complaint further
If the person making the complaint remains dissatisfied with the outcome after they've followed the process, they're entitled to refer their complaint to the secretary of state for education by writing to the School Complaints Unit (SCU). However, they'll only act where a governing body has acted unlawfully and where it's expedient or practical to do so.
Find out more by calling 0370 000 2288 or visiting the Department of Education website. Alternatively, you can write to the department at:
Department of Education
School Complaints Unit
2nd Floor Piccadilly Gate