- Most schools take complaints very seriously and these are best resolved by an informal approach. However, occasionally parents are unable to resolve issues and need to resort to the school complaint procedure.You should make sure you have a copy of this - you are entitled to one on request - before following up a complaint past the informal stage. Always put any complaint in writing so that you have a record of the issues.
- I am happy to advise parents through my telephone consultation service on procedures. However, you need to be warned there may be no satisfactory solution.
- Any complaints about Academies should be referred directly to the Department for Education. You will need to have exhausted the internalt complaints procedure first. You will find the procedure here.
- The Local Government Ombudsman is now able to consider complaints in Kent and Medway for maintained schools, but not Academies (as part of a pilot procedure) about internal school issues, where parents have followed the school complaints procedure. The Secretary of State for Education tried to abolish this route in September 2010, but at that point did not have the legal right to do so. It is therefore possible that he will bring in those powers before long. Before going down this route, you need to be aware that the procedure can take several months and you should give consideration as to what redress you would wish to seek at the end of the process. Further details here.
- Before this process was introduced in Kent and Medway, the route after exhausting the internal procedure was to go to the Department for Education as it is now for Academies. This has proved for many families to be extremely frustrating, drawn out and non productive.
- Sometimes a complaint to OFSTED may be appropriate. To quote from a letter to St Anselm's School, Canterbury, following a special Inspection: "The inspection was carried out in response to serious whole-school issues raised by a complaint to Ofsted. The complaint was deemed to be a qualifying complaint that warranted further consideration under Ofsted’s powers to investigate complaints about schools. As a result of the investigation, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector decided that an inspection of the school should take place to follow up the whole-school issues that were
- Kent and Medway Councils are able to intervene after the internal process has been completed, for Community Schools (not Foundation or Voluntary schools, nor Academies). If it is a serious case, they may be willing to intervene earlier in an informal approach.
- Most schools will want to resolve complaints amicably and improve their performance, so will give you a fair hearing, but often there is a resistance to listening, especially if the complaint is about a member of staff, when the school can become protective. Parents often worry about whether the school will be vindictive and take it out on the child. This is unusual, but certainly not unknown I am afraid and am aware of such a case at the time of writing. The only advice I can give here is - know your school.
- Government continues to give new powers to headteachers, confident that they always act in the best interest of children. New proposals include the power to prosecute children who make false allegations against staff. Sadly I can see the following scenario: "You wish to make an allegation about Mr X. If you go ahead and we don't uphold it, you realise your child will be prosecuted". How many parents with justified complaints will continue in the face of that threat.