You must complain to your school directly before complaining to any other organisation.

If you think a child is in danger, contact your local council or the police.

Complain to the school first

Every state and private school in England has a complaints procedure. Talk to your child’s school and try to resolve the problem with them first.

You can take your complaint further once you’ve been through all the steps in the complaints procedure and you’re still not satisfied.

Who you need to contact next depends on the type of complaint and school.

Complain about a state school

State schools include:

  • maintained schools
  • academies and free schools

Complain about a maintained school

You can complain to the Department for Education (DfE) by filling in the school complaints form.

Complain about an academy or free school

You can complain to the Education Funding Agency (EFA) if:

  • there’s a problem with the school’s complaints procedure
  • the school is not following the terms of its funding agreement

EFA can’t deal with all types of complaint and you may need to contact a different agency.

Complaint Who to contact
Data protection Information Commissioner’s Office
Discrimination Equality Advisory and Support Service
Employment an employment tribunal
Exam malpractice or maladministration Ofqual and the awarding body


You can complain to Ofsted about any state school if there is a problem that affects the whole school. This includes problems with the quality of education or poor management.

You should get a response within 20 working days. The response will tell you if Ofsted will investigate or not, and why.

Online form
Telephone: 0300 1234 234
Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm
Find out about call charges

Complain about special educational needs (SEN)

Talk to your child’s school if you’re concerned about a problem relating to SEN. You can ask for an SEN assessment from your local council if the school can’t provide all the help your child needs.

You can appeal to the SEN and disability tribunal if you’ve applied for an assessment from your local council and you’re not happy with their response.

You can get free advice and information about local SEN services from the Parent Partnership Service in your area.

There are special provisions for complaining about an exclusion.

Complain about a private school

You must complain through your school’s complaints procedure first.

DfE can’t investigate individual complaints about private schools. But it has certain powers as a regulator, if the school is not meeting standards set by DfE for:

  • education
  • pupil welfare and health and safety
  • school premises
  • staff suitability
  • making information available to parents

DfE will consider any reports of a major failure to meet the standards. It can arrange an emergency inspection to make sure that pupil welfare and health and safety are safeguarded and that serious failings are dealt with.

For minor complaints, DfE can ask the school inspectorates to take these into account when the school is next inspected.

Legal advice

You can get free legal advice about schooling and education from Coram Children’s Legal Centre.

Coram Children’s Legal Centre
Telephone: 08088 020 008
Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm
Find out about call charges

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