School complaints

Schools are independently managed and governed, which means we can only tell a school to take particular action in limited areas. In most cases we can only offer advice and information to parents. 

If your child has a problem at school you should try and resolve it by having an informal discussion with your child's teacher. It is the headteacher's responsibility to ensure that all concerns and complaints are dealt with speedily, efficiently, fully and fairly within a school, to meet with the policy of the school’s governing body.  

You must complain to the school before complaining to any other organisation. This applies whether you have a child at the school or not.

For other types of complaints you need to contact another agency.

If you have concerns of a serious nature regarding safeguarding a child or young person, call us 24-hours-a-day on 0344 800 8020. 

All schools in Norfolk want their pupils to be healthy, happy, safe and do well. Schools will want to be made aware of any issues or concerns you may have.

If your child has a problem at school you should be able to resolve it with an informal discussion with your child's teacher. Remember that there is usually more than one view about a situation.

Make sure that what you want to talk about is clear in your mind. A good tip is to write down the main points beforehand so that you don’t forget anything.

Each school has its own complaints procedure and we suggest you ask the school for a copy of that procedure.

While most school complaints procedures follow a similar process, they do differ slightly. You will need to follow the school’s particular procedure to ensure your complaint is properly dealt with.

In the first instance, most procedures ask you to write a letter of complaint to the headteacher if you have been unable to sort the issue with your child's teacher.

It is important you make it clear that your letter is a formal complaint. It needs to set out the issues which have already been discussed and why you feel they remain unresolved.

Also consider asking to see the head of year to discuss the issue. They will usually be willing to offer a meeting as quickly as possible, which will give you both time to talk about it politely and calmly without being interrupted.

Think about what you hope will happen as a result of your discussion and let the teacher or head of year know of this.
If you are unhappy with the outcome of the discussions, you can ask for an appointment to see the headteacher, or in larger schools, this could be a member of the leadership team, deputy headteacher or assistant headteacher.

It is in everyone’s interests, particularly those of your child or children, for issues to be sorted out smoothly.

Try to end on a positive note with no bad feeling, even if it is not possible for all your requests to be met.

If a solution is proving difficult, the headteacher can speak to a governor who may be willing to offer some input to resolve the issue, but there is no obligation for any governor to become involved at this time.

If you are unhappy with the response from the headteacher, the procedure usually gives you the opportunity to meet with the school governors. The governors will not, however, meet with you until you have first tried to resolve your concerns with the headteacher.

At this stage, you will need to write a letter to the Chair of Governors, at the school address, marking the letter ‘for addressee only’.

The procedure usually tells you to request that a Governors Complaints Panel meets to hear your complaint.
If the issue is still not resolved, it can become a formal complaint. This is a serious step to take and it is important that you have thought things through carefully.

If you wish to follow the process for making a formal complaint, you must ask the school for a copy of its complaints procedure.

Although we can’t become directly involved in school complaints, we can give you further advice and information on how to make a complaint.
If you have a concern specifically about the headteacher (not the headteacher’s decision) you should write to the 'Chair of Governors’ at the school address, marking the envelope ‘urgent, private and confidential’, setting out your complaint.

Some issues regarding these areas are covered by statutory regulations.

The headteacher or deputy headteacher can give you information about this.

If you believe that your school's governing body is acting 'unreasonably' you can complain in writing to the Secretary of State for Education.

Complaints to the Secretary of State are handled by the government’s Department for Education.

This should be a last resort, and you should highlight in your letter the steps you have already taken to resolve the problem locally.

The address to write to is: Department for Education, Castle View House, East Lane, Runcorn, Cheshire, WA7 2GJ.

Ofsted (the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) also has a role in investigating the work of schools as a whole.

Examples include:

  • A school not providing a good enough education
  • Pupils not achieving as much as they should, or their needs not being met
  • A school not being well led and managed, or not using its resources efficiently
  • Pupils’ personal development and well-being are being neglected
Whilst complaints about matters relating to an individual child cannot be considered, Ofsted may consider complaints from parents (or some carers) of pupils registered at the school the complaint is about.

For further information, visit Ofsted’s website or use the Ofsted online contact form.

Academies are required by the Independent School Standards Regulations to have a complaints procedure, which must be available on request to parents.

The procedure must set out how complaints will be managed within clear timescales.

If the complaint cannot be resolved informally, then the procedure must also include steps to escalate a complaint through both a formal written stage and, if necessary, a hearing before a panel that includes at least one member who is independent of the academy.

If after you have followed the complaints procedure your complaint remains unresolved, you can take your complaint to the Education Funding Agency.

The Education Funding Agency cannot change any decision an academy has made about your complaint.

Their role is to look at whether the academy considered your complaint properly, by following a procedure that is in line with legal requirements.

Make a complaint

Alternatively, you can complain by post to:

Ministerial and Public Communications Division
Department for Education
Piccadilly Gate
Store Street
Manchester
M1 2WD