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The law on ... Parental complaints

Basic issues

Parents pursue school complaints for a variety of reasons. They may feel that their child is being victimised, or treated differently from other children. They may feel that information is not being conveyed clearly to them about their child's progress, or that parents are not being informed that their children are being kept behind for detentions. Sometimes, parental complaints may become abusive, aggressive and relentless.

Who is responsible?

The school must have a clear and concise complaints policy. That policy must allow for an investigation by the headteacher and then a further review to the governors ending in a stage 3 hearing if requested. In maintained schools, once the parent has exhausted the internal procedures, they can be advised that the matter should be referred to the local education authority. Once the complaint goes to the local education authority, the school is expected to assist the authority in its investigations. Once it comes to a decision, the parent can further complain to the Secretary of State.

Watch out for

It is important to remain objective when parents complain. It is also important to ensure that the complaint is dealt with through the formal channels and that clear records are kept of the investigation and reasons leading to the outcome. It is important to be transparent with information as this often assists with complaints. Parents usually feel their views are not taken into account and that the only way to make themselves heard is through the internal complaints procedures.

In private schools, once the complaints procedure has been exhausted, the only recourse the parent has is to consider suing the school in breach of contract if they feel that their complaint has not been dealt with in accordance with procedures.

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