Complaints about schools

When and how to complain about a school.

All the schools in Oxfordshire want their children to do well and be happy. They recognise that you as a parent/guardian play an important part in making this happen. Therefore, schools aim to provide as many opportunities to keep you informed and involved in your child's progress as they possibly can. Regular reports, open days and visits all helping the process. Questions and concerns are usually dealt with quickly and helpfully.

However, we recognise there are times when things go wrong and concerns continue and differences of opinion develop. These can usually be resolved by speaking to the right person.

Most concerns can be settled without too much trouble, but whatever the issue, even where you are seriously concerned about your child's future at the school, it's always important to try to find an answer. Disruption to a child's education would be the most damaging result of all.

What to do first

Take a few minutes to read this page. Then think the complaint through.

What actually happened?

Remember there is often more than one view about an incident or situation. For example, your child may well be telling the truth but it may not be the whole story.

What do you hope will happen as a result of your complaint?

It might help to talk this through with a friend or relative.

When you make a complaint, remember that although you want to change a situation, you want it to end on a positive note with no bad feelings. In order to do this, you should try to follow the procedures carefully and always try not to put yourself or anyone else into a corner.

What to do next

When you are clear in your own mind as to what you believe has happened, you then need to speak to someone at the school. Contact the headteacher to arrange a meeting.

Although some schools, particularly for younger children, can arrange to see parents who just 'pop in', this is not generally possible. It is always best to try to make an appointment where you can sit and talk things through calmly and without interruption. Investigating complaints does take time and the answers aren't always readily available, but you will at least be able to decide whether the action taken (or not taken) was reasonable and whether any further steps taken by the teacher would solve the problem.

If you are still unhappy

In most cases, the problem will have been solved by this stage. However, if you are still unhappy, then you should contact the Chair of Governors. The school will be able to help you contact this person who may help to resolve the problem informally, possibly by arranging a meeting between those involved.

Once again you'll have the opportunity to talk through your concerns with an independent party who is there to listen and to discuss what is being said. If, after this, you are still not satisfied with the answer, then you should ask to make a formal complaint to the governing body.

Complaints to the governing body

As this is a serious step to take, it is important that you have thought things through carefully and that every possible attempt has been made to solve your concerns by other means.

Normally, a panel of governors will be called to hear your case and all sides will be asked to submit a written statement. You will also be invited to attend any hearing that is held, to present your side of the story.

The decision of the governors' panel will then be sent in writing to all parties.

Taking it further

If, after the governors have dealt with your complaints, you are still unhappy with the decision that was taken, you can contact us for advice on what to do next. For example, if you feel that the governing body has acted unreasonably, you can consider complaining to the Secretary of State for Education.

Ofsted can consider complaints about schools but only where the complaint is about the whole school not about individual children.

Complaints about bullying

See our guidance on bullying at school for details about what to do and who to contact if you wish to make a complaint about a school in relation to bullying.

Academies, free schools and independent schools

Academies, free schools and independent schools must also ensure that they have a written complaints procedure that allows for a complaint to be considered informally and then through a formal written procedure.

If you are still dissatisfied the complaint can be heard in front of a panel of at least three people including someone who is independent of the school. If you are not satisfied after this it is possible to complain to the Education Funding Agency (academies and free schools) or directly to the Secretary of State (independent schools). 

Ofsted can consider complaints about schools but only where the complaint is about the whole school not about individual children.

Post 16 colleges and other providers

At further education colleges, complaints should be made to the teacher or the Principal, or through the college’s formal complaints procedure. If you are dissatisfied after this it is possible to make a complaint to the Education Funding Agency.

Sixth form colleges and some other providers funded by the Education Funding Agency follow the same procedure as above.