Find out how to complain about schools in general and how to complain about school admissions, exclusions and special educational needs provision.
This information should not be relied upon as legal or professional advice. Read the disclaimer.
For England please see Complaints about schools in England.
All schools in Wales are must have a published complaints procedure. School Governing Body Complaints Procedures provides guidance to schools on setting up a complaint’s procedure, Annex 1 details a recommended complaints procedure.
Citizens Advice has a useful page on Sorting out school problems.
School Admission Appeals
The Welsh government has a published school admission code and an appeals code there is also a useful frequently asked questions document. See School admission and appeal codes.
For information about schools exclusions and how to complain see the Welsh government’s School exclusion: guidance for pupils.
Special Educational Needs
Parents or children can appeal to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal for Wales (SENTW) against certain decisions made by Welsh local authorities about a child’s educational needs. They can also make a claim to SENTW about disability discrimination in Welsh schools.
Further information is available from Citizens Advice: Taking action about discrimination in Education and SNAP Cyrmu
Public Services Ombudsman for Wales
The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales has a very limited ability to investigate complaints about schools. For instance, he can investigate complaints about the administration of the complaints process but not the original complaint itself. See their relevant factsheets for further information:
- Education school complaints general information
- Education school admission appeals
- Education school exclusions appeals
- Education Special Educational Needs
There is information about school complaints on the Scottish Government website: Guidance on the Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006.
Citizens Advice provides a lot of information about making complaints in Scotland: Problems at school – Citizens Advice Scotland.
School Admission Appeals
Section 3 of Choosing a School: A Guide for Parents, on the Scottish Government website, explains the process for appealing school admissions. Appeals are heard by an education appeals committee set up by the local authority. Enquire (the Scottish advice centre for additional support for learning) have a factsheet about Education appeals committees.
The Scottish Government sets out its national policy on exclusion in Included, engaged and involved part 2: preventing and managing school exclusions. Appeals must be made to the local authority and will be heard by their education appeals committee (see above).
There is a lot useful information about school exclusions on Enquire’s website: My child has been excluded.
Additional Support Needs
Enquire have a Raising concerns page with advice for parents who are unhappy with the additional support for learning their child is receiving. This explains all the stages and different options involved in making a complaint.
For some complaints the Additional Support Needs Tribunals for Scotland can consider appeals made by parents and young people against decisions of education authorities regarding the provision of educational support. The Scottish government provides some legal advice for this through the Education Law Unit.
Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO).
If the complainants are not satisfied after completing the schools or the local authority complaints process some complaints can be taken to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO). This would normally be complaints about policies and procedures rather than an individual complaint.
The Northern Ireland government website explains how to make a complaint about a school: Making a complaint to your child’s school – nidirect.
School Admission Appeals
NIDirect provides information on: Appealing a school place decision. When an appeal is made, an Independent Admissions Appeal tribunal decides if the school has correctly applied its admissions criteria.
The Exceptional Circumstances Body (ECB) processes applications from parents/guardians for admissions to post-primary school (years 8-12 only) where it is claimed that a child must be at a particular school but an application made through the normal admissions process has failed.
The Northern Ireland Department of Education website explains legislation and guidance on suspensions and expulsions.
Special Educational needs
The Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (or SENDIST) considers parents’ appeals against the decisions of the Education Authority about children’s special educational needs, where the parents cannot reach agreement with the Education Authority. It also deals with claims of disability discrimination in relation to children at school.
Nothern Ireland Public Service Ombudsman (NIPSO).
When all the usual procedures have been pursued and the complainants are still not satisfied they may be able to take their complaint to the Nothern Ireland Public Service Ombudsman (NIPSO). This would usually be where there has been a failure with the process rather than an individual complaint.
The Commons Library does not intend the information in this article to address the specific circumstances of any particular individual. We have published it to support the work of MPs. You should not rely upon it as legal or professional advice, or as a substitute for it. We do not accept any liability whatsoever for any errors, omissions or misstatements contained herein. You should consult a suitably qualified professional if you require specific advice or information. Read our briefing for information about sources of legal advice and help.
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