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0808 808 3555
Listen to our parent adviser Jill explain what you can
do if you're unhappy with your child's education
On this page we explain what you need to do if you want to complain
about any aspect of your child's education.
This information covers state-funded schools in England.
There are different ways to complain about schools in Scotland,
Wales and Northern Ireland:
If your child is not getting the right help in school
for their special educational needs (SEN)
If your child does not have an Education, Health and Care (EHC)
plan and you think your child needs more help for their SEN, see
our page on extra support in
If your child has an EHC plan, your local authority is
legally responsible for making sure your child gets the educational
help set out in part F of their EHC plan. If you think that your
child is not getting this help, discuss your concerns with the
school or college first. If this does not resolve the problem, you
can make a complaint to the local
If you think your child has been discriminated against
in school because of their disability
See our advice on disability
discrimination in school.
If your child has been formally excluded, either
permanently or for a fixed term (temporarily)
See our advice on exclusions.
If your child is being bullied
See our advice and resources on bullying in school.
Other school complaints
Many complaints can be resolved informally. The first step is
usually to speak to your child's teacher or tutor who has the day-
to-day responsibility for your child. Many concerns can be resolved
this way. School staff will be busy and may not have time to speak
to you during the school day, so it may be best to ask for an
Take along a note of the things you want to discuss. After the
meeting make a note of what you and the staff member have agreed to
do. Agree a time and date for another meeting to check if the
problem has been resolved.
If you are still not happy, or if your problem is with someone
who teaches your child, ask for an appointment with another member
of staff, such as your child's head of year or headteacher, to
discuss your concerns.
Making a formal complaint in writing
All schools must have a complaints procedure and should publish
this on their website. If you cannot find this, ask for a copy. The
complaints procedure should set out who to send your complaint to,
how many stages there are (usually two) and how long it will take.
Tips for making a written complaint:
Our example school complaint letter [.doc] may help.
Most school complaints will first be dealt with by a senior
member of staff, such as the headteacher or deputy. If you are not
happy after this stage, or if your complaint is about those staff
members, you can complain to a panel of school governors, (or
trustees if the school is an academy). You may want to ask for a
face-to-face meeting as well as putting your complaint in
School complaints: taking it further
If you are not happy with the outcome after following the steps
above, you may be able to take the matter further.
The Department of Education will consider complaints about
state-funded schools or colleges after you have gone through the
school or college complaints procedure. They cannot look at
complaints about private schools unless the school is not meeting
Ofsted will consider complaints about how the school is run.
They will not look into complaints about individual pupils.
Department of Education website for more information.
This information relates to England.
Follow the organisation's own complaints procedure first. If you
are not happy with the outcome, see the
Department of Education website for details of the next
SEN provision in an Education, Health and Care (EHC)
If your child has an EHC plan, the local authority
is legally responsible for making sure the special educational
provision (extra help) set out in part F is provided. Even if the
help comes through the health service (for example speech and
language therapy) or the school delivers it, for example 1-1
support from a teaching assistant, the local authority is directly
responsible for it.
You can complain to the local authority if your child is not
getting the support specified in part F of their EHC plan (and
discussing your concerns with the school or college first has not
resolved the situation).
If you are not happy with what is in your child's EHC plan, you
may be able to appeal to the SEND tribunal.
The local authority must formally review the EHC plan at least
once a year. Even if the meeting is arranged by your child's school
or college, the local authority is legally responsible for ensuring
the right procedure and timescales are followed. They must not
leave the whole annual review to the school or college.
You can complain to the local authority if:
You can appeal to the SEND tribunal about the
local authority's decision following an annual review.
See our webpages for more information about annual
How do I complain to the local authority?
All local authorities will have a complaints procedure, which
should set out the timescales for considering your complaint. You
should be able to find this on the local authority website.
It is a good idea to copy your complaint to the local authority
Monitoring Officer and the Director of Education, as well as any
local authority officer you have been dealing with.
The Local Government and Social Care
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman investigates
complaints about local authorities. They can look at how the
council has dealt with a child's special educational needs. They
can also consider complaints about social care. You should follow
the local authority complaints procedure first.
You cannot complain to the Ombudsman about something which you
can appeal to the SEND Tribunal about (see below). Visit
the Ombudsman's website for more on what it can and cannot deal
with, and what to expect from a complaint.
This service provides an informal way of resolving disagreements
about special educational needs. Disagreement resolution is similar
to mediation but goes wider. It
can help in disagreements between parents or young people and
schools, colleges, local authorities and health providers whether
or not there is an EHC plan in place.
You should be able to find details of your local disagreement
resolution service on your local authority's Local Offer website.
The disagreement resolution service is free to use and independent
of the local authority.
If you are not happy with a health service
your child has received, including services provided through the
EHC plan, see our guide to the
NHS and Caring for a Disabled Child [PDF]. Pages 17 -19 contain
information about resolving problems and making a complaint.
In some situations it may so be possible to bring a judicial
review against the local authority or other public body. Judicial
review is the way that courts supervise how public bodies,
including local authorities, exercise their powers. The court does
not decide whether a particular decision was right or wrong or
change the decision. Instead, they look at the way a decision was
made. They may ask the public body to make the decision again if
they find that the law and procedures were not followed.
Judicial review is only appropriate if there is no other way to
resolve the situation. You would need to seek advice from a
solicitor. For more information see our webpage on seeking