Skip to main content


How to Make a Complaint

Early Years Providers and Schools

Early Years

  • All registered childcare providers have to have a complaints procedure.
  • For childcare provision that is registered with Ofsted any concerns should first be raised with the manager or provider.
  • For complaints in writing the nursery provider must respond within 28 days.
  • Where the childcare provision is run by a school, the school’s complaints procedure should be used.


  • All state-funded schools have to have a procedure to deal with complaints and have to publish details of their procedure.
  • The governing bodies of maintained schools should make all efforts to make sure that anyone who wishes to make a complaint in relation to children and young people with special educational needs is:
  • The proprietors of academies, free schools and independent schools must make sure a complaints procedure is drawn up in writing and made available to parents.
  • The procedure must allow for the complaint to be resolved informally first and then for there to be a formal procedure for the complaint to be made in writing if the parent is still concerned.
  • If the parent is still dissatisfied, the complaint can then be heard in front of a panel of three people. One of these people must be independent of the management and running of the school.
  • If the parent is still not satisfied after this they can complain:
    • For academies and free schools to the Education Funding Agency (EFA) acting  behalf of the Secretary of State
    • For independent schools to the Secretary of State directly

For both of these situations the Education Funding Agency and the Secretary of State will look at whether the school handled the complaint properly, not the content of the complaint.


Complaints to the Secretary of State

  • Complaints can be made to the Secretary of State for Education that either the governing body of a maintained school or a local authority has acted unreasonably or has failed to carry out one of its legal duties which includes their special educational needs duties.
  • The Secretary of State can also consider complaints about disability discrimination in relation to a pupil at a school.
  • For these complaints ‘unreasonableness’ has been defined as acting in a way in which no reasonable governing body or local authority would have acted in the circumstances.
  • The Secretary of State can issue directions about the exercise of a power or the performance of a duty by the governing body of a maintained school or a local authority.
  • The direction issued must be ‘expedient’ – in other words that it can make a material difference in remedying the matter.
  • The Secretary of State would not become involved if there is another way to resolve the issue such as a Tribunal Appeal.

Complaints to Ofsted

  • Ofsted can consider complaints from parents and others about early years providers and schools. However, they can only consider complaints that are about the early years provision or school as a whole – not about individual children. The person complaining also has to have tried to resolve the complaint through the early years provider’s or school’s own complaints procedure.
  • Some examples of complaints that relate to the school as a whole include:
    • The school not providing a good enough education
    • The pupils not achieving as much as they should, or their different needs not being met
    • The school not being well led and managed, or wasting money
    • The pupils’ personal development and wellbeing being neglected
    • Ofsted could respond to a complaint like this by bringing forward an inspection. It could also decide to look at the matters raised when they next inspect the school.
    • More information can be found on the Ofsted website:


Post-16 institution Complaints

Further Education Colleges, Sixth Form Colleges and other Education Funding Agency 

  • Complaints can be initially made informally to the teacher or Principal.
  • If this does not work then the college’s formal complaints procedure can be followed.
  • If this does not resolve the concern a person can then take it up with the Skills Funding Agency. Their process is available on the GOV.UK website 

Local Authority Complaints Procedure

  • All local authorities have responsibility to consider complaints about decisions made in relation to the following:

Local Government Ombudsman

  • The Local Government Ombudsman can investigate complaints against local authorities where the complaint has not been resolved by the local authority’s complaints procedure.
  • It will investigate the process by which the local authority decisions were made and whether there was maladministration, rather than looking at the merits of a decision which was properly taken. It will decide whether there has been an injustice to the person complaining and/or there is evidence of maladministration.
  • Maladministration can include delay, failure to take action and failure to follow procedures.
  • The Local Government Ombudsman will not look at matters which can be appealed to the Tribunal – such as a decision not to carry out an assessment. It can look at whether the provision set out in an Education, Health and Care Plan is being delivered and in doing so can look at what part the school may have played in the provision not being delivered.
  • It can also look at complaints about the delivery of health provision set out in plans alongside the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.
  • If it finds a fault in the way a decision has been made it will usually ask the local authority to reconsider the decision and consider if other remedies are available.
  • Where there are failures in the systems used by a local authority it might recommend a review of systems, policy and procedures.
  • The Local Government Ombudsman cannot make local authorities carry out its recommendations but in practice authorities almost always do.
  • Complaints can be made through its website: or in writing to
    • PO Box 4771, Coventry, CV4 0EH
    • Help in making a complaint is available on 0300 061 0614.


The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

  • The role of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman is to investigate complaints that individuals have been treated unfairly or have received a poor service from government departments and other public organisations in the UK and the NHS in England.
  • It can look into complaints about the commissioning and provision of healthcare. It will normally only start an investigation once the NHS organisation has had a chance to resolve the issue first.
  • It can also investigate a number of other organisations:
    • Ofsted
    • The Education Funding Agency
    • The Skills Funding Agency
    • The Department for Education (including its School Complaints Unit and the Secretary of State for Education)
    • But it would expect the organisation’s own complaints procedure to have been completed first. These complaints also need to be referred by an MP (Member of Parliament)
    • The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman can also look into complaints that the Tribunal’s administrative staff got something wrong or acted in an unreasonable manner.  They cannot look into the actions of Tribunal members or decisions made by the Tribunal. These complaints also need to be referred by an MP and an initial complaint should have first been made to Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service.
    • More information is available on the The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman website


Judicial Review

  • The Administrative Court for Judicial Review can consider decisions of local authorities in the exercise of their duties including decisions on special education for children and young people. For Education, Health and Care Plans this would be a review of the way in which decisions that are reflected in the Plan are made rather than the content of these decisions.
  • All other ways to resolve the concern must have been exhausted before a Judicial Review can be considered and there are time limitations.
  • For more information and guidance visit the Independent Provider of Special Education Advice (IPSEA) page on Judicial Reviews

NHS Complaints

  • These arrangements cover the health services which a child or young person receives under an Education, Health and Care Plan:
    • Where there are concerns about the service provided the complaint is made to the service provider (for example the NHS Hospital Trust)
    • Where there is a concern about the way in which a service is commissioned or provided (including the appropriateness of the services in an Education, Health and Care Plan the complaint is made to the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
    • Healthwatch provides advice on how to take a complaint forward or resolve an issue. Healthwatch Liverpool has more information on their website. They can be contacted directly by telephone on 0300 77 77 007 or by email
    • The Clinical Commissioning Group in Liverpool has more information on its complaints processes on its website.
    • For direct advocacy support in making a complaint Healthwatch’s advocacy service can provide support.
    • If a person is unhappy with the way in which the NHS has dealt with their complaint they can then contact the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman – see separate section on this service.

Complaints about Social Services Provision

  • Children’s social care services have a legal duty to safeguard and protect children. If someone is unhappy with the way in which they or their family have been treated by these services they have a right to make a formal complaint. This includes during Education, Health and Care needs assessments and the drawing up of plans
  • Click the link to download the full procedure for complaining about Liverpool Social Services Provision. You can find out more on the Liverpool City Council website
  • A person wishing to make a complaint can write to the Designated Complaints Officer.  A written response must be provided within 28 days.
  • If the person is unhappy with the response they can request a panel hearing by writing to the authority within 28 days of receiving the response. That panel should be chaired by an independent person.
  • If the person still feels unhappy with the handling of their complaint under the local procedures and they think the local authority has treated them unfairly as a result of maladministration and this has caused them injustice, they can refer their complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman.
  • Young people aged 18 and over can complain under regulations which set out:
    • A procedure before investigation and
    • An investigation and response process.
    • The provider must acknowledge the complaint within three days and offer the person complaining the opportunity to discuss the timing and procedure for resolving the complaint. Once that is agreed the complaint must be investigated and a written report sent to the person complaining as soon as possible after completing the investigation. The report must explain how the complaint has been considered, the conclusions of the report and any remedial action which has been taken or is proposed to be taken.
    • If a person is not happy with the outcome of this process they can also take their case to the Local Government Ombudsman.