What if I am not happy about my child's school or education?
All schools must have a complaints procedure. If you want to make a complaint, you should ask your child's school for a copy and follow the procedure in it as a first step.
You should usually complain to a senior teacher or the head teacher first. If they do not solve your problem, you can complain to the governing body of the school. If your complaint is about a member of staff at a community or controlled school, you can also complain to the local authority.
If you don’t think your complaint has been dealt with properly and the matter is serious, you may be able to take your complaint to the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (in England) or the National Assembly for Wales (NAW). But you can do this only if you feel that your school’s governing body or the LA has acted unlawfully or ‘unreasonably’ (which in law means in a completely illogical way). The Secretary of State and NAW do not often use these powers, and if you are thinking of complaining in this way, you need to try all the local ways of complaining first.
You can also complain to the Local Government Ombudsman (in England) or Local Ombudsman for Wales about:
- a local authority;
- an admission authority;
- an admissions appeal panel; or
- an exclusions appeal panel.
However, the Local Government Ombudsman and Local Ombudsman for Wales can only look at complaints to do with 'maladministration'. This includes where an organisation:
- does not follow its own procedures; or
- takes too long to do something.
The Ombudsman cannot look at complaints about internal school matters. See 'Further help' for how to contact the Ombudsman.
Ofsted can investigate complaints about the work of a school as whole, but it cannot investigate matters that relate to an individual child. See ‘Further help’ for how to contact Ofsted.
Finally, if the other ways of dealing with your complaint have failed, you may have a case for judicial review in the High Court. But to do this, one of the organisations involved must have:
- done something unlawful;
- done something unreasonable (completely illogical);
- taken something into account that was not legally relevant to the decision they had to reach;
- not considered your situation on its merits - for example, when deciding whether to give your child a place in a school; or
- not followed proper procedures or the rules of 'natural justice' (acting fairly and without favour).
In these cases you will need expert legal advice as soon as possible. You need to act quickly, because you must normally start your case at the latest within three months of the problem you are complaining about. This means you will need to speak to a lawyer well before the end of the three months so there is time to prepare your case.
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- Community Legal Advice