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20 Education

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1. Introduction

2. What choice of school do I have for my child?

3. When must my child go to school?

4. May I teach my child at home?

5. What will my child be taught at school?

6. What should I be told about my child and their progress?

7. What do I have to pay for at school?

8. What can I do if my child is being bullied?

9. What rights does the school have to discipline my child?

10. What happens if my child can't go to school?

11. What say do I have in how the school is run?

12. What if I am not happy about my child's school or education?

All schools must have a complaints procedure. If you want to make a complaint, you should ask your child's school for a copy and follow the procedure in it as a first step.

You should usually complain to a senior teacher or the head teacher first. If they do not solve your problem, you can complain to the governing body of the school. If your complaint is about a member of staff at a community or controlled school, you can also complain to the local education authority.

If you don't think your complaint has been dealt with properly and the matter is serious, you may be able to take your complaint to the Secretary of State for Education (in England) or the National Assembly for Wales (NAW). But you can do this only if you feel that your school's governing body or the local education authority has acted unlawfully or 'unreasonably' (which in law means in a completely illogical way). The Secretary of State and NAW do not often use these powers, and if you are thinking of complaining in this way, you need to try all the local ways of complaining first.

You can also complain to the Local Government Ombudsman (in England) or Local Ombudsman for Wales about:

  • a local education authority;
  • an admission authority;
  • an admissions appeal panel; or
  • an exclusions appeal panel.

However, the Local Government Ombudsman and Local Ombudsman for Wales can only look at complaints to do with 'maladministration'. This includes where an organisation:

  • does not follow its own procedures; and
  • takes too long to do something.

The Ombudsman cannot look at complaints about internal school matters.  See 'Further help' for how to contact the Ombudsman.

Finally, if the other ways of dealing with your complaint have failed, you may have a case for judicial review in the High Court. But to do this, one of the organisations involved must have:

  • done something unlawful;
  • done something unreasonable (completely illogical);
  • taken something into account which was not legally relevant for the decision they had to reach;
  • not considered your situation on its merits - for example, whether to give your child a place in a school; or
  • not followed proper procedures or the rules of 'natural justice' (acting fairly and without favour).

In these cases you will need expert legal advice. You also need to act quickly, because you must normally start your case at the latest within three months of the problem you are complaining about.  This means you will need to speak to a lawyer well before this to make sure that you will be able to provide al the documents you need for your case.

13. How can I get the right education for my child if they have special needs?

14. Further Help

15. About this leaflet

This leaflet was published by the Legal Services Commission (LSC). It was written in association with the Advisory Centre for Education.

Leaflet Version: November 2019

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