Our teachers, teaching assistants and education specialists most often do a great job. However, occasionally, you may not be happy with the level or type of support your child receives in school or college. This page tells you how to complain about your child's education.
The law and your rights
The laws relating to SEN changed in 2014 when the Children and Families Act became law. Alongside the Act there are regulations and the SEND Code of Practice which set out guidance on how to identify and assess special educational needs. All local authorities, schools, FE colleges and early education providers must take note of the Code. You can read or download a copy of the SEND Code of Practice from the Department for Education (DfE).
Parents have rights, which must be explained to them, at all stages when decisions are being made about their children’s education. For example, these include the right to be told when their child has been identified as having special educational needs and to see written reports about their child. The chapter on education tells you more about you and your child’s rights. See also the section below on the Equality Act and disability discrimination, which explains how the law on equalities applies to schools.
Making a complaint
The first thing to understand is that in some circumstances you have a right to appeal, and in others you only have the right to complain. We explained about the rights of appeal in EHC needs assessments & plans. These appeals go to the SEND First Tier Tribunal. You can choose to try independent mediation on any part of the plan you are unhappy with, but you can only go to appeal about the education parts. If you are still unhappy with the health and social care provision in an EHCP you need to use the complaints route. You can also appeal at a local level about admissions and exclusions.
If you have a complaint, it’s always best to try to sort out problems at a local level with the teacher or professional involved. Your child’s class teacher or school head will probably be the first point of contact. All schools have to have a special educational needs policy and an access policy which includes a procedure for dealing with complaints, and they should provide you with a copy of this. If you need to go further, you should approach the school governors. If that doesn’t work you can write to the Director of Children’s Services at Kings House in Hove. You can also make a complaint through the city council’s Standards and Complaints team. If your child is at an academy or free school you should follow the same process up to the school governors (also known as the academy trust). If this does not resolve things you have to take your complaint to the Education Funding Agency.
If your complaint is not about the school but about the LA and is about an SEN issue, get in touch with the casework officer responsible for your child’s Statement or EHCP in the SEN section of the council. If that doesn’t resolve things, you can use the disagreement resolution process. You can also contact the Director of Children’s Services and/or the Lead Member for Children’s Services who will be one of the elected councillors. You can use the council’s complaints procedure via the Standards and Complaints team. Finally, if you are still unhappy with their responses, you can try contacting your Member of Parliament (MP) or the Local Government Ombudsman.
There are specialist national organisations, such as IPSEA, that publish useful information sheets about ‘taking matters further’. They can also advise you on the various ways of trying to resolve disagreements or registering a complaint. Visit www.ipsea.org.uk