You must complain to the school or childminder before complaining to any other organisation. The procedure is the same whether you have a child at the school or not.

Contact your local council or call your local police on 101 if you think a child is in danger.

You can take your complaint further if you’re not satisfied after going through all the steps in the complaints procedure.

Every state and private school in England must have a complaints procedure. You can report one that doesn’t to the Department for Education (DfE) by filling in the school complaints form.

State schools

State schools include:

  • maintained schools
  • academies and free schools

You can complain to Ofsted about a state school if there’s a problem that affects the whole school - this includes problems with the quality of education or poor management.

You should get a response within 30 working days. The response will tell you if Ofsted will investigate or not, and why.

Maintained schools

You can complain to the DfE by filling in the school complaints form.

Academies, free schools, university technical colleges or studio schools

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

Other types of complaints

For some types of complaints you may need to contact a different agency.

Complaint Who to contact
Child protection local council
Criminal behaviour police
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
Quality of education or leadership Ofsted

Private schools

You must go through the 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 look at pupil welfare and health and safety, and make sure 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.

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 Information, Advice and Support Services Network in your area.

There are special provisions for complaining about an exclusion.

Childminders registered with Ofsted

You can complain to Ofsted if you can’t solve the problem by talking to the childminder.

Childminders registered with a childminder agency

You can complain to the childminder agency if you can’t solve the problem by talking to the childminder.

The agency will tell you how you can make a complaint.

You can get the contact details of the agency from the childminder’s certificate of registration. The childminder must display the certificate where they work and show it to you if you ask.

Legal advice

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

Coram Children’s Legal Centre
Telephone: 0300 330 5485
Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm
Find out about call charges