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.
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.
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 first approach them direct and complete their complaints procedure. This should be published on their website. You can use the ‘Get information about schools’ service to find the school’s website and view their complaints procedure.
Find out who to complain to if you believe your complaint wasn’t handled correctly.
Complaints advice for schools
All schools, including academies and free schools, must set up a complaints procedure.
Further guidance for schools and guidance for academies 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.
Complain about a higher education (HE) provider
If you have a complaint about your HE provider you should contact them directly.
Your provider will have a complaints procedure you can follow and will send you a ‘completion of procedures’ letter at the end of the process.
Contact the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) if your complaint cannot be resolved though the provider’s complaints process.
The OIA can only support current or former HE students.
- cannot get involved in individual disputes between English universities and their students
- does not review OIA decisions
Complain about an initial teacher training (ITT) application
You can use the apply for teacher training page if you have a complaint about an ITT application, including if you’ve been treated unfairly.
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
- call the local police on 101 if you think a crime has been committed against the child or young person
- contact your local council if you think a child or young person is at risk or is being abused or neglected
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’.
If you are a professional with concerns about how child protection issues are being handled in your organisation, or another organisation, you should contact the national child abuse whistleblowing advice line on 0800 028 0285 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
If you believe there is fraud or financial wrongdoing at an organisation we fund email full details, including the name of the organisation, to email@example.com.
We will investigate cases where there is enough evidence.
During an investigation, we will try to keep your identity confidential, but we cannot guarantee it. In sufficiently serious cases, we may reveal your identity to the police or other authorities.