Many parents end up seeking legal advice from solicitors because they feel
schools do not take their complaints seriously. Common themes for complaints
include bullying, teachers’ use of detention, and even concerns that a teacher
might be victimising a pupil. This article explains how parents should approach
schools to ensure their complaints are taken seriously.
Q: I have complained in person to my
daughter’s form tutor about the fact that my daughter is being bullied. Nothing
seems to be happening, what can I do about it?
A: If you feel your complaint is not being taken
seriously you should use the school’s formal complaints procedure. By law all
schools are required to have a published procedure which must be distributed to
parents. If you do not have a copy at home, speak to the school secretary and
ask for a copy.
Q: Should my formal complaint be in
A: I would advise any parent wishing to make a
formal complaint against their child’s school, to make their formal complaint in
writing. Having read the school’s official complaints procedure, you will see
there is always a named individual to whom the complaint should be addressed.
This is usually the head teacher. In some larger schools, a deputy head teacher
may be the initial designated formal complaints handler.
Q: What happens if I am not satisfied
with the outcome of the first stage of the complaint?
A: Most schools have two or three stages to their
complaints procedures. The next stage usually consists of a formal complaint to
the chair of the governors. Again, formal complaints must be addressed in
writing and should include a copy of any response or initial letters sent to the
head teacher or other designated person.
Q: I have a friend who has complained to
the governors before, she felt that the governors merely ‘rubber-stamped’ the
head teachers decision, is this common?
A: This really depends. Some governors keep a
very open mind when dealing with complaints. In other circumstances parents
often feel governors just rally around the head teacher. Hopefully governors
feel they are able to balance their decision making to take full account of the
demands of running a school against the genuine concerns felt by a parent and
pupil. Most importantly, governors should be seen to be fair and even-handed in
their decision making.
Q: What if I am not happy with the
outcome of my complaint to the governors?
A: Refer to the published complaints procedure
and then go on to exhaust the next stage of the complaints procedure. This may
be an appeal to a panel of governors. The governors appointed to carry out the
appeal review at this stage, must not have been involved in the earlier
decision. After this, usually the next stage is for parents to write to the
local authority. If this fails, then in the final instance, on serious matters
parents can complain to the secretary of state of the Department for Education
and Skills. If the Secretary of State declines to deal with the matter, if you
still have concerns you should speak to a solicitor specialising in education
Q: Can I use the Local Government
Ombudsman Scheme to complain about a school?
A: The remit of the Local Government Ombudsman
Scheme does not cover schools. This statutory procedure can only be used to
complain about maladministration caused by a local authority.
For further information on Education Law please
contact Solicitor Samantha Hale at Fisher Jones Greenwood on Colchester (01206)