School complaints procedure should be simplifiedWhich? advice on how to complain

02 September 2011

Confused parent with books

Which? believes the school complaints procedure should be simplified

The findings of our 'back to school week' show the majority of parents feel confident complaining about teachers but don't always know where to turn with a problem with the school's head.

70% of primary school parents and 51% of secondary school parents felt confident escalating a problem with a teacher to the school's head teacher.

However, only 54% of both groups knew how to complain when they wanted to make a complaint about a head teacher.

Beyond the school, parents were less clear on who was responsible for dealing with school complaints.

Local authorities

For primary school parents, 42% said they would approach the school governors, 27% their local authority, and 12% the school inspection body Ofsted.

However, these organisations only have limited responsibility for school complaints specific to certain issues.

School bullying

Which? research suggests that around one third of parents have had reason to complain about their child's school. One third of those have been unsatisfied with the outcome, notably on bullying.

The arrival of free schools - and the expansion of academies – is likely to mean parents will only be able to complain directly to the Secretary of State for Education.

Which? believes the school complaints procedure should be simplified.

Complaining about your school

If you're concerned about your child's welfare or learning take the following steps:

1. Contact their class teacher and raise the issue.
2. If the teacher can't help, or you're not satisfied with the response, arrange a meeting or write to the head teacher.
3. If the school can't resolve your complaint, contact the governing body and request a copy of their complaints procedure.

Outside the school, some local authorities operate a Local Government Ombudsman which can investigate complaints.

For certain complaints, especially those regarding the overall management of the school, Ofsted is also empowered to investigate.

If all of the above fail and you feel your school's governing body and local authority have acted 'unreasonably', you can write to the Secretary of State and request an investigation.

More on this

  • Find out how school uniforms from supermarkets compare with high street retailers.
  • Get tips on issuing complaints including  complaining to an Ombudsman.