Complaints procedure

How we handle your complaints, and advice on how to complain about a school, an early years provider or a children's social care service.

If a letter or email you receive from us takes too long to arrive, isn’t clear, or uses an inappropriate tone of voice, we want to know. Similarly, if our reply to your telephone enquiry is not polite and professional, we want to know.

How to make a complaint about the Department for Education

Please provide us with as much detail as you can to help us investigate your complaint:

  • say what the problem is
  • say what you want to happen
  • provide information on any relevant communication with us on the subject, including, for example, any reference numbers on letters or emails, and the times and dates of any conversations
  • address your complaint to the person responsible if you have their name

Please don’t send copies of the same letter or email to multiple ministers and officials.

Complaints

Ministerial and Public Communications Division
Department for Education
Piccadilly Gate
Store Street

Manchester
M1 2WD

How we treat your complaints

When we receive a complaint, we immediately refer it to an appropriate staff member who will then carry out an investigation.

We will reply in writing, or by telephone, within 15 working days from when we receive your complaint. If it is not possible for us to fully respond to you within this time, we will let you know and tell you what we are doing to deal with your complaint, when you can expect the full reply and from whom.

We will always acknowledge where things could have been done better and tell you what we will do to avoid the same thing happening again. Equally, if we don’t agree with your complaint, we will let you know why.

What to do if you aren’t satisfied

The full reply to your complaint will include details of who to contact next if you think we haven’t dealt with it properly. This will normally be an appropriate senior departmental official.

That is the final stage of review for any complaint within DfE but, if you are still unhappy, you can refer your complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman through your local MP. You can find further details from the Local Government Ombudsman.

Questions we can’t help with

The procedure explained here is not for complaints about particular government policies. If you have a complaint about a policy, you can contact the minister for that policy, or alternatively contact your local MP.

Complain about a school or an academy

If you need to complain about a school or an academy, you should approach them directly.

All schools, including academies and free schools, must set up a complaints procedure.

Further guidance for schools and guidance for academies is available.

If you feel your complaint was not handled according to the school’s complaints procedure, and you wish to take your complaint further, more information about who to complain to is available.

Complain about an early years provider

If you need to complain about an early years setting or childcare provider, you should approach them directly.

All early years settings (including childminders) must set up a complaints procedure.

Contact Ofsted if you feel your complaint was not resolved or if you think Ofsted need to be made aware of it.

Complain about local authority children’s services

If you need to complain about children’s social care or the child death review process within a local authority, you should approach the local authority directly.

All local authorities must set up a complaints procedure. Contact your local authority directly to find out how to make a complaint.

Contact your local ombudsman if you feel your complaint was not handled according to the local authority’s complaints procedure. You should also contact your local ombudsman if you wish to complain about the way your local authority handled a child death review.

Report a concern about a child or young person’s safety or welfare

If you are concerned about a child or young person, you should:

  • call 999 if you think the child or young person is in immediate danger
  • contact the local police if you think a crime has been committed against the child or young person
  • contact the local council if you think the child or young person is at risk or is being abused or neglected

Whistleblowing

If you work in an early years or educational setting, or a children’s social care service, and are concerned about suspected wrongdoing, you should follow the institution’s process for ‘blowing the whistle’.

All local-authority maintained schools should set up a whistleblowing procedure.

Our customer service standards

Our Ministerial and Public Communications Division deals with most of our letters, emails, telephone enquiries and consultations.

We aim to:

  • respond to your letters and emails (including complaints) within 15 working days, or 20 days for Freedom of Information requests (in line with government standards)
  • answer at least 80% of calls within 30 seconds between 9am and 5pm on working weekdays
  • give you a response from the person best placed to answer your questions or provide the advice you need
  • be as polite, clear and helpful as possible
  • encourage you to give us feedback on our service so we can improve it

However we cannot respond to complainants who use obscenities, racist or homophobic language, or who are personally offensive about members of our staff.

Concerns about financial irregularity or impropriety

We take all concerns relating to organisations we fund seriously. We will open an investigation in cases where concerns have been raised in good faith and there is sufficient evidence to support them.

Should we decide to open an investigation following a complaint, we will try to respect the confidentiality of complainants during our investigation. We cannot guarantee that the identity of individuals will remain unknown. If the allegation is sufficiently serious we may reveal your identity without your consent.

Individuals wishing to raise concerns relating to financial irregularity in the organisations we fund should write to our Internal Audit Investigation Team with full details.

Internal audit investigation team

Department for Education
Piccadilly Gate
Store Street

Manchester
M1 2WD